Union with Christ

April 13, 2023

This past Sunday at our Easter Worship Gathering, we "heard" the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:22 use the phrase "in Christ." He uses this phrase in a number of his letters because it is a critical concept to the Christian faith.

So today, I want to start a new blog-only series about what it means to be "in Christ" and how to live out this Jesus-centered identity. The first concept I want us to consider together in this series is the idea of being in "union" with Christ.

Better Together

It is quite common to hear in the news of a "workers union" going on strike or starting up in order to demand certain things from their employer. Whether or not you think labor unions are a good thing, the people who join the union believe they have more power by being united than they do simply as individuals.

Union with God through Christ is very similar. If you follow Jesus, your spiritual growth will go much farther when you realize you are in union with Christ.

In the One Minute Pause app, John Eldrege leads the listener in a guided prayer that includes these words "Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit... I am created for union with you." This idea of "union" with God comes from Jesus' "priestly prayer" in John 17:22-23, where He prayed that He would be in His followers just as the Father is in Him.

And yet, so few of us think of "Christ in me."

Divine Union

In his book, Deeper, pastor and author Dane Ortland writes that many of us think

  1. God then me,
  2. God not me,
  3. or God plus me.

Let me explain: Some Christians erroneously think "God then me," meaning they believe their Christian faith started when God saved them through their faith in Jesus, but after that moment of salvation, all the work of following Jesus is up to them. (These individuals easily fall into legalism.)

Other Christians mistakenly think the opposite: "God not me," as though it is God who does absolutely everything, and I as the human have no role in following Him. (The laissez-faire attitude of these people sometimes leads to licentiousness.)

Yet other Christians think "God plus me," with God doing some of the work and "me" doing some of the work – as a sort of cooperative relationship. I think this gets closer to the truth, but this isn't true "union." It's merely partnership.

Union With Christ • Riverwood Church

When Jesus prays in John 17 that the Father would help us experience what Paul describes in Colossians 1:27 as "Christ in you," He isn't merely looking at partnership; He is looking at a merger. Or more accurately: a complete takeover.

Think about it: if the "old" sinful you has died with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and you've been raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4), then you aren't to follow Jesus alone (God then me), nor do nothing (God not me), nor even simply partner (God plus me). You are an entirely different person on a spiritual level, and so it should be God working in you as He works through you with your complete and Spirit-led willing participation in all of it.

So this week, as you ponder what it means to be "in Christ," ask for the Father to help you not only understand your union with Him, but to help you live out "God in me" on a daily, moment-by-moment basis.

Erin Bird Lead Pastor - Riverwood Church

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Riverwood Church, Waverly Iowa

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