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 acomplishmemt in the finished work of Christ.
-John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, p. 161
How do we think about the manner of our salvation? Did this occur in a sequence of steps, or was it a one time event? Do we think in terms of a process, or a final and definite decree? Typically, there are two major ways the Bible distiguishes how this actually works. One of these is what I like to call a “process-oriented model.” This is the order in which we experience salvation and the benifits of that salvation. Paul, in Romans 8:29-30, brings to light this all important reality of our salvation in Christ:
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
We can clearly see through Paul’s categorical statements, some of the believer’s benefits of salvation. These benefits are listed through terms such as predestination, justification, and final glorification. He separates these terms so we can better identify what benefits are ours “in heavely places in Christ.” (Eph. 1:3) [We will expound on this text in the next blog.]
Another method in which we idenitify our salvation is a “person-oriented model.” This is a vital revelation in Paul’s gospel of Christ Jesus. We are unified to Jesus as a person through His salvation. The benefits Paul describes in Romans 8, and Ephesians 1 are ours, not because of mere “steps” or blessings themselves we’ve recieved from Him, but because we have been given Christ Himself, through the Holy Spirit, in our regeneration. What a glorious reality. This is the very reason Paul uses the description of Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection to describe new life in Colossians 2:
and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Paul carefully leaves for our understading, in this passage, the reality that we experience all of Christ’s working towards and within us. He parallels things like our baptism to the burial of Christ, and the fact that we’ve been raised up to new life by His resurrection. Paul identifies the believer as a personal recipient of the life of God in the application of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Lord of glory. This is the place where Paul wants the believer to identify. Not as some lowly worm with no access to the benefits of salvation. We are identified within the spotless Lamb, Jesus Christ, as Paul declares to the church in Colossae:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)
Here, he makes the connection between being born anew, to our daily lives, to our finality in death, as all being tied to the “in Christ” theme in his letters.
We will, in the next blog, continue to dissect in detail, more distinctions within the scope of the doctrines of justfication and sanctification, the legal and transformational workings of Paul’s theology.