Macro and Micro Levels
This language of union with Christ is all over the New Testament. Many, many times the apostle Paul speaks of being in Christ, united with Christ, or in him. We also find it in John’s writings in the Gospel of John and in John’s letters.
What does it mean to be united to Christ? It’s a little bit mysterious and elusive. It means we are in Christ, and that really is used in two different ways in the New Testament. We could call them a macro way and a micro way.
At a macro level, to be in Christ means that he is now your representative head. He is your leader. As he goes, so you go. Christ has gone through death, up into resurrection life, and we who are in him receive the same fate, the same destiny. What he experienced, we experience if we are in him.
If we are in Adam, then we get Adam’s fate. But, if we get out of Adam and into Christ, that’s the Bible’s way of saying now our destiny is determined by Christ’s. He is our corporate leader.
Christ has gone through death, up into resurrection life, and we who are in him receive the same fate, the same destiny.
The Bible also speaks of being in Christ in a micro way—an intimate, organic way like a vine and branches. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul exhorts us to sexual purity, using the category of union with Christ. We’ve been united to Christ. He is one with us, we are one with him; therefore, we honor God with our bodies.
In both cases—macro (cosmic and federal) and micro (intimate and close)—we are one with Christ, which means nothing can get at us without first going through him. We are safe. We are invincibly safe. The Bible teaches us that once you’re in Christ, you can’t ever get out of him. Jesus would have to be pulled down out of heaven and put back in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea in order for us to be de-united from him.
This is the broadest way in which the New Testament speaks of our salvation, justification, sanctification, reconciliation, redemption, purchase—it all takes place under the umbrella of being in Christ, in union with him. This is a glorious truth and one to relish our whole lives long.
Dane C. Ortlund is the author of How Does God Change Us?.
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