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

2 comments:

  1. Hey Thomas,

    I like this: "The doctrine of our union with Christ should guard against impersonality in our religion. ... We worship a man who is God ... A person ... not an idea."

    To take your thought further, an additional reminder worth hearing is that we are to TRUST a person (Jesus), not an idea.

    I occasionally hear people say that as Christians we believe in "the fact Christ died for us," or "the fact that Jesus is he Son of God," or something of that sort. Whilst that is no doubt true as far as it goes, saving Christian faith is not placed in the FACT that Christ has done anything, nor indeed in the FACT that he is God's Son. As Christians, we trust in JESUS, pure and simple.

    To put it another way, we're not justified and adopted and glorified by believing in justification and adoption and glorification, but by believing in Jesus.

    Great to see you at Emmanuel last week, btw.

    Blessings,

    Steve

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  2. This is a great series, guys! What a joy it is indeed to be able to have this blessed hope in Christ that we are 'justified by faith, and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ'! As thy hymn says, 'And life is worth the living just because He lives!' How marvellous that we are saved by grace, and can 'rejoice in hope of the glory of God' not because we deserve it, but because we are saved by grace through our Lord Jesus Christ. Doesn't that make our relationship with God so much the sweeter? Knowing that we, who were born in sin and deserved the wrath of God, have been saved from sin and the wrath to come because we have been washed in the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us 'before the foundation of the world.' Such love! This should not only stir within us a deep love and desire to serve our Saviour, but a longing to share the gospel with the lost, that they also may be 'made free from sin' and become 'servants of righteousness' (Romans 6:18). The joy we have in Christ because He has set us free should stir us to action to go out there and share the joy we have with others because of Jesus, that others may also experience true joy in Him! Yes, the knowledge that we are saved by grace and justified by faith should lead us to lives of thankfulness and worship to God, but this should also lead us to actively spreading the gospel with a sense of urgency as time is short, for the time will come when God puts an end to the day of grace, and then it will be too late. What a sobering thought! Sometimes I think Christians (and I can be guilty of this) are too comfortable with their lives, and can be 'too laid back' so to speak, praising God for His boundless grace and yet not active enough in telling others about His matchless grace and love. May our gratitude and thankfulness to God for His unconditional love and grace stir us to action in sharing the good news of the gospel with the lost!

    Also, just one quick question: I have met a few Christians over the years, who seem to lack the true 'joy of their salvation.' The joy they should have seems to be overshadowed by an overwhelming sense of worthlessness and guilt of their sins, even when others tell them that 'there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus' and they seem to spend more time condemning themselves, than 'rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.' How should we respond to these people? What is the best way to deal with this situation?

    Anyway, thanks for the post - great article!

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