Union with Christ
The Bible had its beginning when the Lord spoke to Moses out of the burning bush on Horeb, the mountain of God (Exodus 3). The call of Moses to his unique ministry included the work of writing and editing the first five books of the Bible.
The burning bush is a marvellous symbol of union with Christ. The children of Israel were in the furnace of affliction in Egypt, subject to the whippings of their slave-drivers. Our Saviour and Lord identified with them. He was united with them in their sufferings. That is why they were not destroyed.
The story of Christ’s church from Pentecost onwards, through all the centuries, has been one of persecution — often fiery persecution. Through it all, from the time of the persecutions of the Roman Caesars, through the most dreadful medieval persecutions of the Antichrist’s inquisition, to the long periods of persecution in present-day China, the church has not been consumed.
In fact, it has, like the children of Israel in Egypt, multiplied. How can we grasp this? It is because Christ is in his people. He is united to them; he walks with them in the fires. Therefore, they are not consumed.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walked in the fiery flames and yet were not burned (Daniel 3; Isaiah 43:2). The Lord who was not consumed by the fires of the burning bush was walking with them.
What the heart is to the body, union with Christ is to the soul. Union with Christ is the foundation of all our spiritual experience. When the wisdom of the Graeco-Roman world, superior for its quality and breadth to any other civilisation, had failed to produce an answer to the problem of sin, our sovereign Creator demonstrated his wisdom in the provision of a perfect man.
By joining lost sinners to that perfect man — Jesus Christ — the Father provided a comprehensive remedy for sinners. Paul sums this up in a sentence: ‘It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is our righteousness, holiness and redemption’ (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Our justification before God, sanctification (definitive and progressive) and the resurrection of our bodies are all achieved through union with the Son of God.
Five analogies in Scripture convey the truth of union with Christ. The first is that of marriage, which has its roots in the Old Testament (Ephesians 5:22-33). The second is that of the vine and its branches (John 15:1-8).
The third is baptism, as explained by Paul in Romans 6:1-14. The fourth analogy is the human body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27); the fifth a building built on a cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20-21).
If you wish to explore union with Christ further, note how frequently the apostle Paul uses the expression ‘in Christ’. Then note too how he refers to Christ being in us.
Three examples are Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27; and Romans 8:10. Then there are three places where both concepts are combined; namely, John 6:56; 15:4; and 1 John 4:13.
Reader, have you by faith come into union with Christ? If you are not sure about that, then I exhort you to study your Bible, and especially the words: ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent’ (John 6:29).
The author is associate pastor at Leeds Reformed Baptist Church, UK. He is editor of Reformation Today and helps spearhead pastors’ conferences for southern Africa. His latest book is The doctrine and practice of holiness (EP Books).