Thursday, July 29, 2010

More Union with Christ

John Flavel's second sermon in "The Method of Grace" Series continues with the theme of our union with Christ. The doctrine is that "there is a strict and dear union betwixt {between} Christ and all true believers.

"Now this communion of the saints with Christ is intirely (sic) and necessarily dependent upon their union with him, even as much as a branch's participation of the sap and juice depends upon its union and coalition with the stock: take away union, and there can be no communion or communications which is clear from 1 Cor. iii. 22, 23" (pp. 35-36).
This union is immediate and it excludes degrees (p.39). This means that each believer has an 'equal share'--if we might think of it as shares--in the person of Christ and the saving benefits of Christ communicated through that union. Our union is not merely mental, nor is it physical or essential. By essential, Flavel, and other reformed writers mean that our essence or being is not united to the divine nature. The union is more than just a federal or covenantal union and it is more than just a union of love. It is a "mystical union {which is} wholly supernatural wrought by the power of God alone" (p.39). It is fundamental to our sustenance as Christians for "all our fruit of obedience depend upon it" (40). 

"The mystical union is a most efficacious union, for through this union the divine power flows into our souls, both to quicken us with the life of Christ, and to conserve and secure that life in us after it is so infused" (40).
As an aside, this is why true believers in Christ can never be lost from that union.

A true union with Christ will always bring forth immediate fruit. 

Flavel then makes nine inferences from the doctrine of our union with Christ:

(1) If there be such a union between Christ and believers, Oh then what transcendent dignity hat God put upon believers.

(2) If there be such a strict and inseparable union between Christ and believers, the the grace of believers can never totally fail; Immortality is the privilege of grace, because sanctified persons are inscparably (sic) united to Christ the Fountain of life."

He adds this pastoral advice:
"True it is, the spiritual life of believers is encountered by many strong and fierce oppositions: It is also brought to a low ebb in some, but we are always to remember, that there are some things which pertain to the essence of life, in which the very being of it lies, and some things that pertain only to its well-being. All those things which belong to the well being of the new-creature, as manifestations, joys, spiritual comforts, &c. may, for a time, fail, yea, and grace itself may suffer great losses and remissions in its degrees, notwithstanding our union with Christ; but still the essence of it is immortal, which is not small relief to gracious souls. When the means of grace fail, as it is threatened in Amos 8:11. when temporary formal professors drop away from Christ like withered leaves from the trees in a windy day, 2 Tim. 2:18. and when the natural union of their souls and bodies is suffering a dissolution from each other by death, when that silver cord is loosed, this golden chain holds firm, 1 Cor. 3:23" (43).

(3) "Is the union so intimate between Christ and believers? How great and powerful a motive then is this, to make us open-handed and liberal in relieving the necessities and wants of every gracious person! For in relieving them, we relieve Christ himself."

The gospel is practical. Ironically some might show disdain against this today by labeling it "social gospel" or somehow in opposition to the spirituality of the church and her ministry. 

(4) "Do Christ and believers make but one mystical person? How unnatural and absurd then are all those acts of unkindness, whereby believers wound and grieve Jesus Christ! This is as if the hand should wound its own head, from which it life, sense, motion and strength."

(5) "Is there so strict and intimate a relation and union between Christ and the saints? Then sure they can never want what is good for their souls or bodies." 

(6) "If the saints are so nearly united to Christ, as the members to the head: O then, how great a sin, and full of danger is it for any to wrong and persecute the saints! For in so doing, they must needs persecute Christ himself." 

(7) "If there be such a union between Christ and the saints, as has been described, upon what comfortable terms then may believers part with their bodies at death?"

(8) "If there be such a union between Christ and believers, how does it concern every many to try and examine his state whether he is really united with Christ, or not, by the natural and proper effects which always flow from this union."

(9) "How much are believers engaged to walk as members of Christ, in the visible exercises of all those graces and duties, which the consideration of their near relation to him exacts from them." 

All out steps and behaviors should honor Christ because of the sweat and close union we have with Him. Soli Deo Gloria.

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