Union with Christ Notes

I found these notes among others by Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition:

Union with Christ

James S. Stewart wrote that “union with Christ, rather than justification or election or eschatology, or indeed any of the other great apostolic themes, is the real clue to an understanding of Paul’s thought and experience” (A Man in Christ [Harper & Bros., 1955], vii).

John Murray wrote that “union with Christ is . . . the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation. . . . It is not simply a phase of the application of redemption; it underlies every aspect of redemption” (Redemption—Accomplished and Applied [Eerdmans, 1955], pp. 201, 205).

Anthony Hoekema wrote that “Once you have your eyes opened to this concept of union with Christ, you will find it almost everywhere in the New Testament” (Saved by Grace[Eerdmans, 1989], 64.

If you want an introduction to the doctrine of union with Christ, John Murray’s chapter in Redemption—Accomplished and Applied is helpful, as is Anthony Hoekema’s chapter in Saved by Grace. Below are a few notes on the latter:

The New Testament uses two interchangeable expressions to describe union with Christ:

  1. We are in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; John 15:4, 5, 7; 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 12:2; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 1:4, 2:10; Phil. 3:9; 1 Thess. 4:16; 1 John 4:13).

    1. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

  2. Christ is in us (Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27; Rom. 8:10; 2 Cor. 13:5; Eph. 3:17).

    1. 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.

  3. Three passages (John 6:56; John 15:4; 1 John 4:13) explicitly combine both concepts.

    1. John 15:4 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.

Hoekema says that we should see union with Christ “extending all the way from eternity to eternity.” He outlines his material in this way:

  1. The roots of union with Christ are in divine election (Eph. 1:3-4).

    1. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

  2. The basis of union with Christ is the redemptive work of Christ.

  3. The actual union with Christ is established with God’s people in time.

Under the third point, he shows eight ways that salvation, from beginning to end, is in Christ:

  1. We are initially united with Christ in regeneration (Eph. 2:4-5, 10)

  2. We appropriate and continue to live out of this union through faith (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:16-17).

  3. We are justified in union with Christ (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:8-9).

  4. We are sanctified through union with Christ (1 Cor. 1:30; John 15:4-5; Eph. 4:16; 2 Cor. 5:17).

  5. We persevere in the life of faith in union with Christ (John 10:27-28; Rom. 8:38-39).

  6. We are even said to die in Christ (Rom. 14:8; 1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 14:13).

  7. We shall be raised with Christ (Col. 3:1; 1 Cor. 15:22).

  8. We shall be eternally glorified with Christ (Col. 3:4; 1 Thess. 4:16-17).

    If we are united to Christ, then we are united to him at all points of his activity on our behalf.

We share:

  • in his death (we were baptized into his death),

  • in his resurrection (we are resurrected with Christ),

  • in his ascension (we have been raised with him),

  • in his heavenly session (we sit with him in heavenly places, so that our life is hidden with Christ in God), and we will share

  • in his promised return (when Christ, who is our life, appears, we also will appear with him in glory) (Rom. 6:14; Col. 2:11-12; 3:1-3).

Our Witness on Sundays

Originally this article was found here at Tabletalk Magazine.

In the United States, we have twenty-one federal and other holidays each year. This does not include religious and cultural holidays such as Christmas, Ramadan, Yom Kippur, Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, and Mardi Gras. There are also those modern special days that range from World Autism Awareness Day to Talk like a Pirate Day. We go out of our way to create special days that hold significance for our communities. Such days may be marked by joy or mourning, spiritual services or raucous parties, education or celebration.

And yet Christians, despite the significance of their most holy day, given to them by the Lord, often treat it as a good option so long as there isn’t anything better going on that day. We have called this weekly holy day the Lord’s Day since the first century when Jesus rose from the dead. But as Keith Green sang: “Jesus rose from the grave. And you! You can’t even get out of bed!”

The significance of the Lord’s Day cannot be overstated. Each Sunday, the church gathers in local assemblies to celebrate and proclaim Jesus’ resurrection, His victory over death, and the salvation He accomplished for all who believe. It’s a day that demonstrates the unity and diversity of the people of God as we gather to confess with one voice our one Lord, our one faith, our one baptism, and our share in one Spirit. This is the day and these are the gatherings that God has historically used to bring revival to the church.

Just as significant in a negative sense is our apathetic treatment of the Lord’s Day. This tells the world a lie that we believe. It tells the world that even if Jesus rose from the dead, it has little impact for us and no relevance for others. We tell this lie when we put worldly (even if good) responsibilities before the gathering of God’s people on Sunday. From NFL games and our children’s sporting events to yard work and homework, we are inundated with temptations to do many other things than worship corporately.

Going to church might sound like a small thing to some, but our keeping of the Sabbath by gathering with the church on Sunday is a testimony to the world that needs to be heard. When we do not forsake the assembly but call the Sabbath a delight (Heb. 10:25), we testify to various realities.


Our allegiance to Christ is rarely tested in modern American culture as it is on Sunday. When we say no to the world and all of its offerings on the first day of the week, we are demonstrating the lordship of Christ not just in a general sense but in a very personal way. We are telling the world that Jesus is our Lord, that His reign extends into our very lives. Because Jesus has died and has risen from the grave for us, we are eternally His. His glory is our passion and His Word is our rule. The consequence is a radically different set of priorities that pushes back against the values of the world. While Jesus has called us to be in the world but not of the world, He does call us to separate ourselves from it on Sunday.


When we rest from the world and worship our triune God on Sunday, we are showing the world that our citizenship is in heaven. This world is not our home. We are sojourners here, living under the reign of our King in heaven, whose glorious return we await. We are not just a countercultural people but a kingdom people at war with the god of this age and at odds with the corruption of the world. When the church gathers on the Lord’s Day, heaven itself is breaking in to the darkness in which we live and the light of Christ is made manifest. What we do on Sunday as Christians is a testimony to what we live for as well as to what we call home.


By rejecting the perverted priorities, the busyness, and the chaos of the world on Sunday, we are testifying to the passing of this world. This world, with all of its desires, is passing away. The temporal will pass into the eternal; the temptations will be swallowed up in righteousness when Christ returns. As Christians, we live not for the here and now but for what awaits us in the future. We keep the Sabbath because we cannot keep the world. It does not last. Each day, the world is giving way to corruption and corrosion while the kingdom of God remains uncorrupted.


When we gather with the saints on Sunday, we are admitting that we remain a people in need of God’s grace. We are not yet free from sin and corruption ourselves. As we rest from work and the world, we are seeking rest for our souls, which continue to struggle with sin. On Sunday, we shut our ears to the world and listen to the Word of God preached. We confess our sins, rejoice in our salvation, and sing the praises of our Maker and Redeemer. We cannot afford to put the world and its agendas before Christ and His call to His people to gather, for in the gathering the means of grace are offered in a concentrated form for us sinner-saints.

What we do with Sunday matters. It will either be the day set aside by God for His people to rest and worship in a way that shows their distinction from the world, or it will be just another day of the week, no different from any other.

Rev. Joe Thorn is founding and lead pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, Ill., and host of the podcast Doctrine and Devotion. He is author of several books, including Note to Self and The Heart of the Church.

Trying to Greet my Neighbor

I don’t know the author of this blog but this really made me thing about how we get to know our neighbors in our modern world. Share your thoughts. Link to original.

There’s the November rain. It held off through the last dying gasps of October, to my total amazement, as I was expecting to be standing at the Trunk and Treat, soaked and angry, handing out cups of cocoa to other angry parents and their crying children.

Instead the afternoon was balmy and the rain, though threatening, never kept its fitful promise. And so the highways and byways were filled with people—children, parents, friendly dogs on leashes, grandparents, teenagers. My cocoa station was well traversed and I nearly ran out of cups.

The whole time I wondered to myself what was the point—not in a brooding disconsolate way, but in the praying, how should one go out into the world way. After decades of Christians warning against the relative dangers of witchery and evil on a night apparently devoted to just that thing, it seemed a reasonable moment to look sideways at oneself and consider one’s own Christian witness.

What surprised me last night was the sheer number of people I got to say hello to. ‘Hello! Would you like some cocoa?’ I said it over and over. And then got to chat about the costumes and the weather and how nice it was that we were all together and what a fine night it was. Children wandered away with buckets and bags full of sugar and that was that. And then my children went out with friends, and people came to our door through the evening, and we just kept saying, ‘Hello.’

There’s so much talk these days, and I’m sure it is all needed, about loving one’s neighbor, and going on from there to love one’s enemy, but the thing I find hard about American culture is the total absence of being able to say hello at all, of the possibility of greeting another person. There is no formal way to offer a greeting to any of the people I pass by. If I go for a walk, I can trudge by people on every corner of every street and I must go by them without saying anything. When my actual neighbor walks in and out of his house day after day, not only is there nothing culturally required for me to say, but it is inappropriate, usually,  to do anything more than nod, even a smile sometimes feels out of the way. Though I always smile, rebelliously, under the unfriendly glare of the other. This is a function of being in an urban—I hesitate to say city because we have fallen to the population level of a town—context, of course. But it is also because the west threw away its complex system of manners and greetings ages ago.

So there is no way to find yourself standing on a dusty path asking about the health of the other person’s mother, grandmother, father, grandfather, sons, daughters, husband, and then going on to ask if she herself slept well and is well. And then, because you are already talking, finding out her family name and where she is going. The next time you see her you would do all the greetings again, and find out more. In this way, without too much trouble, you get to know all the people who live around you. Whereas in America, even in the grocery aisle, let alone any other place you might go, while you may cheerfully comment about the weather, you aren’t allowed to say, ‘How are you? How is your family? Do you have a family?’

So what I want to know is, how are you to love your neighbor if it is not culturally appropriate even to greet that one? And if there aren’t some ways that makes cultural sense, then Christians should, if at all possible, rush out at least on Halloween and say hello to as many people as possible who aren’t normally there, who are usually shut behind their doors and their screens, uninterested in social engagement. We worry about how to share the gospel with a dying world, but my more basic worry is how to even say hello. If you can’t say hello, your gospel presentation will be said to someone who is not even standing there any more.

8 Reasons to Preach Through Books of the Bible

Originally found here:

The resurgence in commitment in many evangelical circles to expository preaching is a very encouraging sign as the contemporary church navigates so many shifting cultural trends with so many shifting stylistic trends of its own. As many younger churchmen have begun to look not at the latest preaching styles but at what evangelicalism’s elder statesmen have been doing for years — not to mention, as they’ve begun studying the homiletical practices of the gospel renewal movements throughout church history — we’ve fortunately seen a rise in expositional preaching. Many of us have maintained a commitment to this kind of explication even when our sermons happen to be topical!

While there’s no need to be dogmatic about this kind of sermon delivery, and while I think taking time for short topical sermon series or strategic “stand-alone” messages can be good and helpful, I do think it is generally wise for a pastor not just to preach expositionally, but to preach expositionally through entire books of the Bible. I think every preacher ought to endeavor to feed his flock this way. And here are eight reasons why:

1. It’s biblical.
Contrary to what some have said, expository preaching through books of the Bible has biblical precedent. The two most notable examples can be found in Nehemiah 8, where Ezra preaches through the book of the Law, “giving the sense” (v.8) as he goes, and of course in Luke 24, where “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (v.27).

2. It helps people learn their Bible.
It is a sad reality that most Christians get most of their Bible at church. We want them to spend daily time in the word, of course, but too many don’t and won’t. Preaching through books of the Bible, then, over time exposes churchgoers to the fullness of God’s counsel. This is even true for Christians who do study their Bibles but who tend to do so like their preachers tend to preach, favoring certain books or certain stories or certain devotional emphases. If a preacher will preach through whole books, he will eventually get to more “obscure” books that even some studious Christians haven’t spent much time in.

3. It spiritually stretches the preacher and deepens his understanding of God.
If a preacher will commit to preaching through entire books of the Bible, he will find himself dealing with difficult and complex passages he might otherwise have avoided. Systematically working through a book means you can’t skip the confusing parts or the scandalous parts or the “boring” parts, the study of all of which is helpful to the preacher’s own devotional life — since all Scripture is breathed out by God and useful (2 Tim. 3:16) — and consequently helpful to the congregation.

4. It puts controversial or “hot topic” issues in their proper place.
A preacher committed to preaching through books of the Bible can’t hobby-horse or camp out on one political, social, or cultural issue he feels most important. His preaching isn’t being driven by Hallmark or the headlines. Thus, he gets around to the “social issues” when the Bible does and ends up correlating his concern and energy about them to the Bible’s concern and energy about them.

5. It helps Christians see the full storyline of redemption. 
The gospel announcement of Christ’s sinless life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection for the salvation of sinners is a grand plan foreshadowed and echoed throughout all of Scripture, and preaching through entire books of the Bible helps churches see the epic story God is telling about his Son from the foundation of the world. Similarly:

6. It more greatly magnifies the glory of Jesus Christ.
As my favorite children’s Bible storybook says, “Every page whispers his name.” As Jesus himself says to those disciples on the road to Emmaus, even the old covenant Scriptures are “about himself.” And as Paul says, all the promises of God find their “yes and amen” in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20). To not preach through as many biblical texts as you can is to withhold certain aspects of Christ’s glory from your church. To preach systematically through books of the Bible – laboring faithfully in the work of Christ-centered exposition — is to show the glory of Christ in surprising, fresh, and God-designed ways.

7. It fosters congregational patience, endurance, and commitment to the word.
Hopping from one topic to the next, jumping around according to pastoral interest or current devotional mood, has some advantages to be sure, but a commitment to a book more befits the plodding needed for faithful, long-term ministry. Preachers who preach through books of the Bible logically think in more long-term ways, which is beneficial for pastoral fruitfulness. And the way preachers preach shapes their church. A pastor who commits to showing Christ week after week through book after book re-wires the short attention spans of modern congregants to the Spiritual fruit of patience, the Christian virtue of endurance, and the church’s mandate to be “people of the book.” Nothing shows a pastor’s and a congregation’s fidelity to and reliance on the word of God alone like preaching the whole counsel of the word of God alone.

8. It creates a longer pastoral and congregational legacy.
As C.S. Lewis once said, “To go with the times, is to of course go where all times go.” Or, alternatively, also from Lewis: “The more up-to-date a book is, the sooner it is out of date.” Substitute “sermon” for “book,” and I think we’re on to something here. To preach with the times is to go where all times go. Now, sermons ought to be applicable and relevant to the Christian’s daily life and the world we live in. But the great thing about the Scriptures is that they are remarkably applicable and relevant to the world we live in without our help! And while sermons fashioned toward the tyranny of the now may be of some help for some time, sermons preached from the eternal word can be of help for all time. In the long run of pastoral ministry and the life of the church, a pastor who resources his congregation with faithful, plodding biblical exposition is providing a body of work that will live much longer after his own departure. What a milestone it would be to get to the end of preaching through the entire New Testament to your church, or even, should God grant you this length of tenure, the entire Bible! Wouldn’t that be a finish line worth shooting for?

Planting Gospel Churches in Small Towns

Our denomination's magazine, By Faith has a recent article that was very encouraging to me.  The article was titlet, Planting Gospel Churches in Small Towns.  Here are some take aways:

  1. “Wherever there’s the curse, there needs to be the Gospel, and the curse is very much present in small towns.”
  2. Small towns are never “financial hubs,” Coyer points out. And numerical growth is limited. That brings financial challenges, which often require the church planter to be bi-vocational. 
  3. “You need to figure out what you can do well and keep it simple. It’s a more organic than programmatic approach to ministry.”
  4. Another common challenge is relationships. People tend to stay in small towns because of lifelong friends and family, which means long-time residents don’t need new friends. That makes it hard to create small groups and build community.
  5. Church planting in small towns is a long-term process. “These are not areas for someone with a short-term view of growth,” Coyer advises. Herrera agrees. “You have to think, ‘This is going to be my home, it’s where I’ll serve long term.’ [We’re planting] a church that will be here for generations.’”  

Would love to hear your thoughts!