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Union with Christ: The Implications for Biblical Counseling
Counseling is about change.1 It is necessarily so because gospel ministry proclaims that in Christ there is a future hope and a present reality of renewal.2 The concept of change is central to the gospel, as J. Gresham Machen states: “It is inconceivable that a man should be given this faith in Christ, that he should accept this gift which Christ offers, and still go on contentedly in sin. For the very thing which Christ offers us is salvation from Sin—not only salvation from the guilt of sin, but also salvation from the power of sin.”3
The counselor, as one who ministers the gospel of grace,4 endeavors to move the counselee in a godward direction. Although all counselors take with them a culture of information from which they draw and get basic direction,5 three fundamental assumptions that biblical counselors must maintain are: (1) God has created each person; (2) sin has prejudiced each person; and (3) God has made provision for each person to change. It is my intention in this chapter to discuss a subject I consider to have utmost theological importance and practical implications—union with Christ. It is my contention that the primary reality of change in salvation is comprehended by union with Christ.
Beginning Assumptions about Union with Christ
Godward change, which is at once distinct and yet inseperable from initial change wrought by union, is not an option because “real faith inevitably produces a changed life.”6 Paul said that whom God “foreknew He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). Characteristically, Paul follows the great discourses of what God has accomplished in Christ (the indicatives) with Spirit-endorsed commands (the imperatives) to live in a “manner worthy of the calling with which [we] have been called” (Eph. 4:1). The imperatives of Ephesians (ch. 4–6) follow the indicatives of the first three chapters of that same epistle.7 Similarly, in Paul’s epistle to Roman believers, his magnus opus of theology, the indicatives of chapters 1 through 11 form the foundation necessary for the imperatives of chapters 12 through 16. To the apostle, change is an assumed experience because it is preceded by, grounded in, and generated out of God’s objective working—what Ridderbos terms the historical-redemptive working of God in Christ.8 Ridderbos explains that “The imperative is grounded on the reality that has been given with the indicative, appeals to it, and is intended to bring it to full development.”9
Although godward change is expected and grounded in the work of God in Christ, we must hasten to add that in this life change will never be complete. In terms that at first seem a bit surprising, Paul describes believers as those who “groan in this life while waiting eagerly for the “adoption … the redemption of the body” (Rom. 8:23).10 The consummation of the redemption must wait until that day when we will be fully transformed into the image of Christ (1 John 3:2). Meanwhile, we live in the age that falls between the “already” (which has the dual constituents of historical-redemptive and personal-appropriative) and the “not yet,” or the final consummation that occurs when we will be ushered into the presence of Christ. Therefore, the Christian life is lived out between the “already” and the “not yet” of redemption, it is in this present age that we are called upon by God to be transformed (Rom. 12:2). In other words, we are to struggle against sin in the pursuit of godward change.
Hence, it is necessary that biblical counselors be equipped with the knowledge of the character of change (past, present, and future) in order to help counselees whose lives are suspended between the polarities of “already” and “not yet.” At the same time, the counselee is faced with the Bible-endorsed expectation that he or she become more like God now and yet confronted with the ever-present, active, antagonistic principle—sin.
God entered the dimensions of time and space in the incarnation to effect change in the environment of fallenness. Thus when we speak of change we must consider the doctrine of union with Christ, the doctrine that encompasses the past, present, and future of a believer’s transformation. It swallows the indicatives and the imperatives and hence provides the answers to the how of change and the why of struggle. The counselor must know what the Bible teaches concerning union with Christ in order to understand what changes in salvation and why believers, who have been changed, sin. Because the counselor’s position on those two issues will control how he or she responds to a counselee who is entangled in sin, the doctrine of union with Christ is an essential part of the biblical counselor’s theological understanding. Out of the counseling comprehension of the three tenses of change (past, present, and future) will grow his or her method of counseling.
The Importance of Union with Christ
Union with Christ is at once a difficult and woefully neglected subject (the latter possibly explained by the former). Yet Sinclair Ferguson writes that union with Christ is “a doctrine which lies at the heart of the Christian life and is intimately related to all the other doctrines.… Union with Christ is the foundation of all our spiritual experience and all spiritual blessings.”11 And Murray observes that “Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation, not only in its application but also in its once-for-all accomplishment in the finished work of Christ.”12 In addition, the respected theologian A. W. Pink introduces his work on union with this emphatic statement:
The present writer has not the least doubt in his mind that the subject of spiritual union is the most important, the most profound, and yet the most blessed of any that is set forth in the sacred Scriptures; and yet, sad to say, there is hardly any which is now more generally neglected. The very expression “spiritual union” is unknown in most professing Christian circles, and even where it is employed it is given such a protracted meaning as to take in only a fragment of this precious truth. Probably its very profundity is the reason why it is so largely ignored in this superficial age.13
Counselors must emphasize the doctrine of union with Christ because it incorporates two key issues essential to understanding change and struggle. First, union with Christ is an all-encompassing doctrine. “It embraces the wide span of salvation from its ultimate source in the eternal election of God to its final fruition in the glorification of the elect.”14 Second, it is the one doctrine that embraces the factors of what Christ has accomplished (the indicative) and what believers are commanded to do (the imperative). Moule says that the gospel begins “in the indicative statement of what God has done,” and before it goes on to the imperatives “to struggle” it confronts us with the imperative “to attach oneself (be baptized! be incorporate!).”15
The Representations of Union with Christ
In Scripture we find that union with Christ is taught through at least five metaphors.16 First, is the union of a building and its foundation. In Ephesians, Paul speaks of Christ as the “comer stone.” In Christ, “the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (2:21–22). Peter says that Christ is “a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house . . .” (1 Pet. 2:4–5). Second, union with Christ is pictured by union between man and wife. Paul’s classic statement in Ephesians speaks to this metaphor, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:31–32). Third, is the illustration of the vine and branches found in the gospel of John and again in Paul (John 15:1–5; cf. Rom. 6:5; Col. 2:6–7). Fourth, Paul uses the metaphor of the union between the members and head of the body. In his first epistle to the Corinthians he says that “the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12). Fifth, and most significant, in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 Paul speaks of two corporate races under which all mankind is subsumed. One is the race of all unregenerate persons who are in Adam. That race is under the sentence of death. The second Adam, Christ, is the head of a second corporate race. In Romans, Paul “points to the bond that joins all the descendants of Adam with their progenitor, as the pattern and type of the communion between Christ and his own.”17 According to one commentator, in chapter five of Romans Paul recollects “what we human beings are, as members of Adam’s lost race; everything human is sunk in sin and stands under the wrath of God. But, on the other hand, he has declared what we have become through Christ; by faith in Him we have been delivered from the dominion of wrath and received into the kingdom of righteousness and life.”18
Thus, just as the solidarity existing between Adam and his posterity explains how death has passed upon all, so the solidarity between Christ and his posterity explains how the obedience of One has been reckoned as the obedience of many. Paul is acknowledging here what many have described as a “corporate personallty.”19 Adam and the Messiah are pictured as the inclusive representatives of two humanities. Those who live in solidarity with the first Adam constitute one body; those in solidarity with the one new Man constitute another. These two bodies provide the only two solidarities that are open to mankind; in their inherent opposition lies the clue to the character of each. The chart below gives the distinctives of each.20
The Consequences of Union with Christ
The Bible speaks of wonderful consequences of union with Christ. Yet I have noted how many who write about this union seem to drift in the wrong direction because they fail to maintain the distinction between the consequences of union and the essence of union.21 Thus, rather than addressing what union is, they merely address what it produces. Albeit, while we are seeking to understand the meaning of union, it is important to acknowledge the normal consequences that result from it. We will not venture to examine all of these consequences, but will include three here that relate to our pursuit of the essence of change wrought in salvation.
The first consequence of union we will consider is justification. Ridderbos defines justification as that which “man requires in order to go free in the judgment of God and to know himself discharged from the divine sentence.”22 Paul puts it this way: “All those who believe … [are] being justified as a gift by his [God’s] grace (Rom. 3:22–24); again, Paul says, “A man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Rom. 3:28). A classic text of justification is Romans 1:17 where Paul writes, “The righteousness of God [is] revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, those who are by faith, just, shall live” (author’s translation). God declares the believer to be justified because He imputes (Rom. 3:28; 4:11ff) righteousness to the believer. “The underlying assumption of these passages is that Christ himself is the righteousness and that, by union with him or by some kind of relationship which we come to sustain to him, we gain property in that righteousness which he is.”23 It is important to note that the biblical doctrine of justification does not require a belief in the change of regeneration as being substantive or constitutional in nature.
In union with Christ, God restores us to relationship with Himself through the objective reality of justification. But salvation “does not consist only in a new relationship, but that a restoration of the whole of life in the most inclusive sense of the word results from it and has been given with it.”24 Thus Paul speaks of the righteousness of God accomplished in Christ as a “justification of life” (Rom. 5:18). To Paul, the two realms of existence (the realm of death and the realm of life) are at once decisive and self-evident. That is, the good news of the Gospel resides in the declaration of life brought from death. In 2 Timothy 1:10 Paul says that Christ has vanquished death and brought life and incorruptibility to light “through the gospel.” Because of its life-giving power, Paul calls the gospel the “word of life” (Phil. 2:16). Elsewhere, Paul can actually speak of the gospel as an “aroma of life and death” (2 Cor. 2:14–16).25 The irreducible element of gospel proclamation is that it is the declaration of life in Christ.
In union with Christ believers have been taken up into the new life context of Christ. The concept of newness in Paul’s writings is critical for an adequate understanding of the essence of change and must be contemplated in distinction to what was old. In Ephesians 4:23–24, the “old man” (ho palaios anthrōpos) is a view of the whole self in its fallenness.26 Thus, the old man is the autonomous man under sin. The theological significance of Paul’s contrast and comparison of the new and old man is poignantly expressed in the following discussion:
Paul is seeking to express [i.e. speaking of the antithesis in 1 Cor. 5:6–8] the incompatibility between the previous life in sin and newly begun Christian life.… The thought is even more sharply put in the contrast between the old man and the new, Rom. 6:6; Col. 3:9; Eph. 4:2.… In Rom. 6 Paul says that he who is baptised is baptised into Christ’s death. The service of sin is no longer possible.”27
The new life context of the new man and the old life context of the old man are mutually exclusive—they cannot coexist. Furthermore, the change from old man to new man is an instantaneous work of the Holy Spirit: “In Titus 3:5 the Holy Spirit is revealed as the agent who effects this amazing change in a person. Apparently, here the continuing process of the Spirit’s work is not primarily in mind, but the instantaneous change which takes place at conversion. (Note the aorist tense: ‘He saved us.’)”28 In the life context of the new man, the Holy Spirit rules. “The Spirit is not only the one under whose dominion the church may live, but he also enters into the actual existence of believers.”29 Even though progress is not in view in Titus 3:5, we must hasten to say that the work of the Spirit within the realm of new life marks the inception of renewing.30 New life is a radical and instantaneous transformation, not of substance but from one life context to another.
The person who is united with Christ is also “in the Spirit” (Rom. 8:9). “To be ‘in the Spirit’ means to be in the realm that the Spirit created, where the Spirit blesses and gives new life.”31 The reality of that indwelling is first christological not anthropological. That is, the Spirit indwells Christ (1 Cor. 12:13), and by virtue of union with Christ those who believe participate in the Spirit. It follows then that one who is joined to Christ is joined to the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). On the subject of the primacy of Christ in relation to the Spirit’s indwelling, Ridderbos makes this statement:
The thought is not that the Spirit first shows himself to individual believers, brings them together into one whole, and thus constitutes the body of Christ. For in this way participation in Christ would follow upon sharing in the Spirit, whereas the church has been given precisely with Christ as the second Adam. The sequence is accordingly the reverse: those who by virtue of the corporate bond have been united with Christ as the second Adam, have died and been buried with him, may know themselves to be dead to sin and live to God, may also know themselves to be “in the Spirit.” They are, because included in this new life-context, no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9).32
The Spirit indwells Christ and His Body, the Church. The ministry of Christ and the Spirit are so conjoined that being in Christ is described as being in the Spirit, and conversely, being in the Spirit is tantamount to being in Christ In fact, and notably, all the expressions and realities of new life are attributed to the Spirit as well as to Christ. Newness of life, which is after the pattern of Christ’s resurrection, coalesces into the “newness of the Spirit” (Rom. 7:6). Thus, new life is said to be a gift of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:6), and the corresponding and progressing change generating from new life is at once the ministry of Christ and the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18).
In Galatians 5:25 Paul says that “if we live by the Spirit (indicative) we will also walk by the Spirit (imperative). Union then, with its central characte
The union of the believer with Christ includes the christological blessings of justification, new life, and indwelling. Based on those foundational realities the believer receives further enjoyments from life in Christ. In order to understand the essence of the change that occurs in salvation, we suggest that incorporation, not alteration, is the best description of this change. The realities of justification, new life, and indwelling do not necessitate belief in a change in man’s essence because the Bible does not teach that they accomplish such change. People are declared—not made—righteous. In new life, a person is part of the new humanity in which Christ is the head. That person is joined to Christ, and because the Spirit indwells Christ, that person participates in Christ’s gift to the Church, the Holy Spirit.
The Language of Union with Christ
Union with Christ is frequently spoken of as “in Christ.” So predominant is this phrase that it is virtually interchangeable with other NT expressions such as “salvation,” and in particular, “new life.” Thus we are not surprised to find Paul alternating among the expressions “in Christ,” “in the Spirit,” and “in the faith.”35 In Christ the old life has been finished once and for all time. “You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).
But what does being “in Christ” mean?
Some claim that something inside us as believers actually changes or a part of our person,. “the spirit,” which before was dead is made alive, and so we can look inside ourselves and see “a new life” there. Paul does say that we are a new creation, that we have new life, but he does not mean by this that a dramatic change, observable internally, has taken place in some part of us. He is referring, primarily, to our new status before God: because Christ is our representative and is alive, we too, being in Christ by faith, have life (italics his).36
Through some 164 occurrences, Paul uses the phrase “in Christ” to signify that there is a correspondence between the work of God accomplished in Christ and the blessings believers receive. “In Christ is one of Paul’s favorite terms for the new life, describing the deep, permanent and joyful relationship between the new Christian and his Lord, a life which can only be thought of in terms of a totally different form of existence.”37 In Ephesians chapter 1 Paul says that in Christ the believer is “chosen” (v. 4), “graced” (v. 6), “redeemed” (v. 7), “reconciled” (v. 10), “destined” (v. 11), and “sealed” (v. 13). God worked in Christ to effect the inauguration of a new dimension of existence, one that conquers the old dominion in Adam. Joined with Christ, believers are now members of that new humanity of which Christ is the head. The immediate result is that the “chosen in Christ” are blessed “with all spiritual blessings.” In Christ, we are a new “creation” or a new person whose citizenship is in the new age or aeon. Newness is the description of being joined with Christ.
In Romans 6:1–11 Paul uses the idiom of dying and rising with Christ to express the same truth as that found in the phrase “in Christ.” United with Christ in salvation, the believer enters a new mode, and, even further, the “old has passed away.” In Romans 6 Paul explains the meaning of this by claiming that in Christ believers have “died to sin” (6:1–2). “What the apostle has in view is the once-for-all definitive breach with sin which constitutes the identity of the believer. A believer cannot therefore live in sin; if a man lives in sin he is not a believer. If we view sin as a realm or sphere [aeon] then the believer no longer lives in that realm or sphere.”38
Then in verse four Paul uses the term baptism to argue that death to sin is the fruit of being united with Christ. “Therefore, union with Christ, which baptism signifies, means union with Him in His death.”39
Similar to the use of the phrase “in Christ,” baptism (in nonsacramental usages) is nearly interchangeable with the thought of the union of believers with Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; cf. Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:11, 12). This intertwining of baptism with union in Christ is noted by Ridderbos: “For Paul, what once took place in Christ has also taken place with the church. The ‘in Christ’ has its validity back into Christ’s preexistence (Eph. 1:4), and reaches out to his parousia (Col. 3:4). But so far as the church is concerned, through baptism the ‘once’ becomes a ‘here’ and ‘now.’ ”40
Since Christ’s work of redemption, there have been two life dominions: that of Christ and that of Adam. While outside Christ, people are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:11–12), but inside Christ they have life with God and can experience spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3–14) and death to sin (Rom. 6:1–11). Since blessing and death to sin are what God has accomplished in Christ, these must be appropriated personally through union with Christ. This is the union described by Paul as “in Christ” and “baptism.”
We have argued that to understand the concept of union with Christ we need to consider in what sense we can say that change occurs in salvation. Furthermore, when Paul speaks of spiritual change he frequently uses metaphors. We have taken a brief look at five of these and have discovered that central to each image is the quality of corporateness. Scripture declares the believer in Christ to be “new”—a description of a person who is now a part of the new humanity that exists under the rule of Christ. The consequences of that union are manifold. Justification, new life, and indwelling of the Spirit are key fruits that issue from this relationship with God. These consequences are entirely consistent with the union aspect of Paul’s imagery in that they, too, are derivatives of being joined to Christ.
From our inclusion into the new realm of Christ we are declared righteous; all that is descriptive of life is now ours, and because the Spirit indwells Christ, we are participants in that gift as well. And finally, Pauline terminology of union finds expression in phrases such as “baptism” and “in Christ.” Baptism into Christ means death to sin because the old man has been crucified (Rom. 6:2, 6). On the positive side baptism brings “life unto God.” The idiom of dying and rising, which baptism conveys, is a death to the old age and participation in the new age.
Redemptively speaking, the person who once lived in the old age has ceased to exist. In the language of Paul, that person “has passed away” (2 Cor. 5:17). “In Christ, the eternal Christ, who suffered, rose, ascended, who is se
As part of the race in Adam, the unregenerate person held to a world-and life-view that was anthropocentric (man-centered). Now, in Christ, the regenerate person lives life with a christocentric world-and life-view (Christ-centered). The primary reality of this change is a new relationship with God known in union with His Son. The foundational aspect of that change can be summarized in these words: “To know one’s environment in a new way, and to be newly related to God through justification, is to live in a new world; a new set of relationships has come into being.”42 The new person is genuinely but not totally new. Hence, being “free from sin” and “sinless” are two very different things. In Christ, the new man has been freed from the dominion of sin. It is freedom from sin’s dominion that is the basis for and gives explanation to the believer’s continued fight against sin. Indeed, “the imperative is spoken because the indicative is true.”43 The old person is totally dead. But in neither case is the reality a matter of a change in substance, but, as we have shown, a matter of union with Christ. We, along with Murray, can conclude that
sanctification involves … conformity to the image of God’s Son, a conformity attained not through external imitative assimilation, but through an impartation of the fulness of Christ, an impartation which flows through a living organism that subsists and acts on an immensely higher plane than any form of organic or animate life with which we are acquainted in our earthly existence.44
The counselee’s conflict with sin is to be interpreted in light of Paul’s conflict in Romans 7:14–25. For in both, the source of tension is in terms of two colliding modes of existence or aeons. In Romans 7 the believer is at conflict because of his double situation brought about when he lives out the new age in the context of the old age (flesh).
1 1 It is not within the scope of this chapter to present argumentation for the biblical teaching of the expected change of the regenerate, otherwise referred to as progressive sanctification. Yet, we should acknowledge that real, progressive change is fundamental to Reformed faith. Representative are the works of G. C. Berkouwer. For instance, in Faith and Sanctification (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952) he states that “faith is not merely an intellectual affirmation of a distant and alien righteousness but that it is a power which renews man and expresses itself in good works”(39). In a more recent work, J. P. Moreland suggests that any commitment to truth will include a “resolve to cultivate the mind as part of our discipleship under the lordship of Christ,”in introduction to Christian Perspectives in Being Human: A Multidisciplinary, ’Approach to Integration, ed. J. P. Moreland and D. M. Ciocchi (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), 8. In the same work, Robert Saucy abjures that, “It is significant that faith, which obviously entails thought, is nevertheless always associated even in the New Testament with the heart indicating that true believing is more than an intellectual activity”(36). The normalcy of life change has sparked not a little debate in recent years most commonly discussed under the banner of “lordship salvation.” Lewis Sperry Chafer (He That is Spiritual [New York: Our Hope, 1918]) joined by his colleagues John Walvoord (The Holy Spirit [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954]), Charles Ryrie (Balancing The Christian Lift [Chicago: Moody, 1969]) and So Great Salvation(Wheaton: Victor, 1989), and Zane Hodges (The Gospel Under Siege[Dallas: Redencion Viva, 1981]) has led the contingency who hold to what maybe described as the “normality of non-change.” The reader would do well to become familiar with the works of John F. MacArthur, Jr. (The Gospel According to Jesus [Grand Rapids: Zondeivan, 1988] and Faith Works[Dallas: Word, 1993]); John Murray (Redemption, Accomplished and Appliedand Principles of Conduct [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955]); and Robert Belcher’s excellent summary, A Layman’s Guide to the Lordship Controversy (Southbridge, Mass.: Crowne, 1990).
2 2 Speaking of change in a chapter titled “On the Biblical Notion of ‘Renewal,’ ” B. B. Warfield says that “This conception [change] is that salvation in Christ involves a radical and complete transformation … by virtue of which we become ‘new men’ (Eph. iv. 24, Col. iii. 10), no longer conformed to this world (Rom. xii. 2, Eph. iv. 22, Col. iii. 9), but in knowledge and holiness of the truth created after the image of God (Eph. iv. 24, Col. iii. 10, Rom. xii. 2)” in Biblical Doctrines (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1988), 439.
3 3 J. G. Machen, What is Faith (New York: Macmillan, 1925), 203.
4 4 Jay Adams rightly refers to counseling as the Church’s “God-given task” in A Theology of Christian Counseling (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), x.
5 5 See David Powlison, “which Presuppositions? Secular Psychology and the Categories of Biblical Thought,” Journal of Theology and Psychology 12, no.4 (1984): 270–278.
6 6 MacArthur, Faith Works, 24.
7 7 Berkouwer makes the significant statement: “There is never a stretch along the way of salvation where justification drops out of sight.” Faith and Sanctification, 77.
8 8 Ridderbos explains this term: “The governing motif of Paul’s preaching is the saving activity of God in the advent and the work, particularly in the death and resurrection of Christ. This activity is on the one hand the fulfillment of the work of God in the history of the nation Israel, the fulfillment therefore also of the Scriptures; on the other hand it reaches out to the ultimate consummation of the parousia of Christ and the coming of the kingdom of God. It is this great redemptive-historical framework within which the whole of Paul’s preaching must be understood and all of its subordinate parts receive their place and organically cohere.” Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 39.
9 9 Ibid., 255.
10 10 J. Murray, Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 307. Murray explains that the groaning in this passage is not “mere groaning under the burden of imperfection of the present but groaning for the glory to be revealed.”
11 11 S. Ferguson, Know Your Christian Life(Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1981),92–93.
12 12 Murray, Redemption,170.
13 13 A. W. Pink, Spiritual Union and Co
14 14 Murray, Redemption, 165.
15 15 C. F. D. Moule, “The ‘New Life’ in Colossians 3:1–17”Review and Expositor 70, no.4 (1973): 482.
16 16 The tedious labor of the biblical interpreter is further complicated when distinguishing literal from nonliteral usage, particularly when a given term is used in the NT both analogically and nonanalogically such as body and flesh. Serious error results when we fail to recognize metaphor or when we fancifully and unjustifiably insinuate it where it does not belong. Paul S. Minear cautions: “The whole history of Biblical interpretation might be told in terms of the process by which certain key images have, during successive periods in the history of thought, moved from the realm of relatively marginal metaphors into the realm of central and decisive concepts. Moreover, the opposite movement has always been in operation: a concept once deemed essential has moved toward the periphery of thought.” Images of the Church in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 18–19.
17 17 Ridderbos, An Outline,61.
18 18 A. Nygren, Romans (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1949), 210.
19 19 For this term see the Old Testament studies of H. W. Robinson and J. deFrain, Adam and the Family of Man(Staten Island, NY: Alba House, 1965). See also, G. C. Berkouwer, Sin (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 512ff. Saucy states that in what is termed “corporate personality” we find the teaching that “the union of the individual and the community were such that the entire group could be conceived of as acting in the individual (e.g., the sin of Achan in Josh. 7:10–12). While this has something of a representative idea, it also has a certain reality of relationship which may be seen most clearly in the concept of ‘being in Christ’ The union of all human beings with Adam by natural birth is thus analogous to the union of the new humanity with Christ.… In this concept of corporateness a real unity of mankind is affirmed without attempting to explain its exact nature.” R. L. Saucy, “Theology of Human Nature,” in Christian Perspectives, ed. Moreland and Ciocchi, 49.
20 20 Paul S. Minear, Images of the Church in the New Testament(Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 74.
21 21 For example, consider this statement: “The new nature and old nature are opposite dispositions toward God; the old nature is a disposition of enmity against God.” R. E. Showers, The New Nature (Neptune, N.J.: Loixeaux Brothers, 1986), 9. Showers, while offering many helpful interpretations, appears to make no distinction between the consequences and the essence of union. For what I consider to be a more reasoned statement on the primary reality of change in salvation see G.E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974). Ladd states, “The idea of the new birth is no different from the Pauline idea of being baptized into Christ and so entering into newness of life (Rom. 6:4). The metaphor is different—new birth, union with Christ—but the theology is the same. In Pauline thought, men become children of God by adoption rather than by birth” (290).
22 22 Ridderbos, An Outline, 163–164.
23 23 Murray, Romans, 357. Properly understood then, justification is not a declaration that arises from God’s mercy but from His justice. Having been united with Christ the believer is justly declared righteous.
24 24 Ridderbos, An Outline, 205.
25 25 Nygren, in his helpful commentary on Romans (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1949), believes that the text that unlocks Paul’s central theme in that epistle is 5:12–21. Commenting on that passage he says, “The question to which Paul is here addressing himself is to inquire what it is that has come about because Christ has been given to us. His answer (in Romans 5.12–21) is clear: the new aeon, the aeon of life, has come upon us” (Romans, 20–21). Ladd says that “Christ’s death avails to transfer the believer from the realm of indebtedness, of condemnation and death—the old aeon—to the realm of life in the new aeon.”A Theology of the New Testament(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 487.
26 26 C. E. B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, vol. I, in The International Critical Commentary, ed. J. A. Emerton and C. E. B. Cranfield (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1979), 309.
27 27 Heinrich Seesemann, Theological Dictionary of the New Testamen4 vol. V, ed. G. Friedrich, trans. and ed. G. W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 719.
28 28 DL. Norbie “The Washing of Regeneration”The Evangelical Quarterly 34, no. I(1962): 36.
29 29 Ibid., 222.
30 30 This issue is discussed further in chapter 7.
31 31 Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, 483.
32 32 Ridderbos, An Outline, 221.
33 33 If we miss the nuance of Paul’s use of imagery from the Old Testament, we will have wrongly interpreted 1 Cor. 6.19. In that verse Paul is not speaking of the physical body as the material container of God. Fee says that “Paul now images the body as the Spirit’stemple, emphasizing that it is the ‘place’ of the Spirit’s dwelling in the individual believer’s lives. In the same way that the temple in Jerusalem ‘housed’ the presence of the living God, so the Spirit of God is ‘housed’ in the believer’s body. This is imagery pure and simple, in which the significance of the body for the present is being affirmed; it is not intended to be a statement of Christian anthropology, as though the body were the mere external casing of the spirit or Spirit.”G. Fee, First Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 264. The Spirit indwells the body of Christ and is a “gift in which believers share in virtue of their incorporation into the body”(Ridderbos, An Outline),373.
34 34 That is not to say that the Spirit’s ministry is not personal. Joy (1 Thess. 1:6); love (Col. 1:8); and unity (Eph. 4:3) are some of the personal benefits derived from the Spirit’s ministry. The Spirit teaches us the Word of God (1 Cor. 2.14–16) and equips us for service (1 Cor. 12:4, 11).
35 35 “That which is at one time called living, walking, standing in Christ (Rom. 6:11; Col. 2:6; Phil. 4:1;1 Thess. 3:8), and elsewhere living, walking in or by the Spirit (Gal. 5:25; Rom. 8:4), can also be called living, walking, standing in or by faith (Gal. 2:20; 2 Cor. 5:7; Rom. 11:20; 1 Cor. 16:13; 2 Cor. 1:24).”Ridderbos, An Outline, 233.
37 37 G. Carey, I Believe in Man (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 87.
38 38 Murray, Romans, 213.
39 39 Ibid., 214.
40 40 Ridderbos, An Outline, 213.
41 41 J. A. Robinson, Commentary on Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1979), 25.
42 42 C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, in Harper’s New Testament Commentaries, ed. H. Chadwick (New York: Harper and Row, 1973), 174.
43 43 Murray, Romans, 241.
44 44 J. Murray, Collected Writings(Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1977), 11:304.
John MacArthur, F., Jr, Wayne A. Mack and Master’s College, Introduction to Biblical Counseling : Basic Guide to the Principles and Practice of Counseling, Electronic ed. (Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1997, c1994), 122.
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