Doctrine 7. Justification, Conversion and Union with Christ
We come now to the 7th part of our ‘Doctrine Series’. What have we covered so far? Well, we have talked about who God is, firstly in His names and attributes and secondly in His nature as trinity. After discussing God we moved on to look at the scriptures answering such questions as: what does it mean for the scriptures to be the word of God? This lead on to us considering God’s decrees and creation, and then original sin. Most recently we addressed the subject of the Lord Jesus Christ considering His names, nature and atonement. There is (whether you realised it or not!) a logical progression between these past themes and the one addressed here today. What is that connection? It is the plan of redemption or, to put it another way, salvation history.
To summarise: we have sinned against God, the holy creator, which messed up the whole creation and created order. The whole of mankind is under condemnation. So, God sent Jesus (as we saw in the last article) who lived a perfect life as the new Adam then died on the cross and three days later rose again. A question, however, remains: how does that do creation or mankind any good?
Calvin states this problem very well:
“How do we receive those benefits which the Father bestowed on his only –begotten Son- not for Christ’s own private use, but that he might enrich poor and needy men? First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us. Therefore, to share with us what he has received from the Father, he had to become ours and to dwell within us.”
Effectively, it is all very well and good if Christ has these riches (which include salvation for us) that the Father has given to him but that is of no use to us unless we become one with Christ. How does that happen? By faith and by the Spirit. When the Spirit has united us to Christ through our faith it can rightly be said that we have “put on Christ” (Gal 3:27) or have been “engrafted into him” (Rom 11:17).
How does this look practically? We all remain in danger under God’s judgment unless we are converted. To be converted is to have faith in God and his work of redemption and to ask him to forgive us. It is to start living as we were created to live- under God’s rule. If you wanted to understand this message better you should check out ‘two ways to live’.
Once we are converted we are in God’s family as sons and daughters of God the father with Christ as our elder brother. In fact, we are, incomprehensibly, brought into the divine economy! The largest consequence of this conversion is explained for us in Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Some very brief practical applications from this doctrine:
1. The doctrine of our union with Christ should lead to confidence in our salvation. After all, if our salvation rests in Christ and we are united to him whose work is complete why should we worry? Romans 8:1-2
2. The doctrine of our union with Christ should guard against impersonality in our religion. As Christians we are different from every other religion because of Christ. We worship a man who is God and who has actually saved us. A person though, not an idea. We don’t (and most certainly shouldn’t) worship a doctrine. And when we do share the gospel with others we need to steer clear of presenting the gospel as a set of doctrines and instead as a person- the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. This should all lead to thankfulness and joy in our own lives and ultimately to worship. If it doesn’t it isn’t because of the doctrine but because of my lack of skill in explanation. Go and read Romans and that should do the job!
If you do have any questions post them below. I’ll do my best to answer them or point you in the direction of someone who can.
Article by Thomas van den Broek