An important doctrine in the New Testament has been under-studied, distorted or over allegorized. It is the doctrine of 'union with Christ'. One can find near centuries when the doctrine was not examined. One can find many books where the doctrine of union with Christ is distorted by allegorizing (e.g. one book called VINELIFE ends up teaching mysticism because of the distortion of the doctrine of union with Christ in Christ's analogy of the vine and the branches in John 15).Other authors push examples to unbiblical positions (for example some theologians connect union with Christ to water baptism leading to presumptive regeneration among those baptized). Still others teach that believers become 'in-godded' through union with Christ. Surely there must be carefulness and clarity for this biblical doctrine.
Of late, evangelical and Reformed authors have sought to rectify the situation with several meaty and truly helpful studies on the New Testament doctrine of the believer's union with Christ. I can recommend the following materials.
Robert Spinney, NOT THE WAY I USED TO BE (The
Bible's Large Doctrine of Regeneration); Tulip
Booklets--a great primer on the profound nature
of regeneration. Along the way, Dr. Spinney shows
the relationship of regeneration to union with
Christ and why believers are inwardly compelled
Anthony Hoekema, SAVED BY GRACE; Eerdmans--a
contemporary classic by a theologian who was
never less than clear. Shows in chapter four how
union with Christ is a major part of our salvation.
John Murray, REDEMPTION: ACCOMPLISHED AND
APPLIED; Eerdmans--one of the greatest Reformed
theologians of the 20th century has a great
chapter on 'Union with Christ'.
John Stott, LIFE IN CHRIST; IVP--a very helpful study
of the New Testament's teaching on the believer
being 'in Christ', 'with Christ', 'from Christ', etc.
The various prepositional phrases that show that
the believer has a vital union with Christ are
Edward Donnelliy, LIFE IN CHRIST; Evangelical Press
originally sermons given at the annual evangelical
movement of Wales summer conference. Very
good sermons showing the interconnectedness of
union with Christ and our salvation.
Maurice Roberts, UNION AND COMMUNION WITH
CHRIST; Reformation Heritage--Scottish minister
who was formerly editor of the BANNER OF TRUTH
MAGAZINE whose monthly devotionals were gems.
Shows the interrelationship between union with
Christ and communion with God.
John Owen, COMMUNION WITH THE TRIUNE GOD;
Crossway--edited with updated language and
outlined by Kelly Kapic--a Puritan classic made
more accessible by Dr. Kapic's editorial work.
John Owen, COMMUNION WITH GOD; Banner of Truth
(edited by R. K. Law); a Puritan classic made
accessible by Dr. Law's skillful editing.
Robert Letham, UNION WITH CHRIST (in Scripture,
History and Theology); P & R--very helpful work by
by a very helpful contemporary Reformed
J. Todd Billings, UNION WITH CHRIST (Reframing
Theology and Ministry for the Church); Baker
Academic--also very good but aimed at a more
Other classic studies to be consulted by the diligent student are:
Thomas Boston, HUMAN NATURE IN ITS FOUR-FOLD STATE; Banner of Truth--see the chapter 'Mystical Union Between Christ and Believers'.
Jonathan Edwards, "Safety, Fulness and Sweet Refreshment to be Found in Christ' in THE WORKS OF JONATHAN EDWARDS (2 VOLUMES); Banner of Truth;
2:929-936 and included in JONATHAN EDWARDS ON KNOWING CHRIST; Banner of Truth; pp. 156-182
John Flavel, 'The Union of the Believer with Christ a Principal Part of Effectual Application'; THE WORKS OF JOHN FLAVEL; 2:33-49
John Flavel, 'The Method of Grace in the Gospel of Redemption' ; THE WORKS OF JOHN FLAVEL; 2:3-474
Richard Sibbes, 'A Christian's Portion...'; THE WORKS OF RICHARD SIBBES; Banner of Truth; 4:1-38
John Newton, 'On Union with Christ'; THE WORKS OF JOHN NEWTON; Banner of Truth; 1:322-323
Benjamin B. Warfield, "Communion With Christ'; FAITH AND LIFE; Banner of Truth; pp. 415-427
One can also examine the systematic theologies of the Hodges, Shedd, Strong, Berkhof, Grudem and Horton for further treatments in a larger context of theology.
May the Lord enrich your life and your understanding of the profundity of your salvation with your study of this marvelous doctrine and reality.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin