It’s beneficial to discuss the theology of our union with Christ as we’ve already done, but sometimes we struggle to understand the implications of this doctrine. Your counselees will probably need help to see how applicable it is to their lives. Our union with Christ is not just a theoretical doctrine. It has real application for you and your counselees.
Union with Christ Affects Our Identity
I think this is especially powerful. Our world finds their identities in many things. The LGBTQ+ movement finds its identity in its behavior, and if you reject the behavior, they feel you are rejecting them. If your identity is as a homosexual, then it’s going to feel personal when someone claims the Bible calls that behavior sin. That’s because your identity is very personal.
Many things we choose for our identity can be distractions from what our identity ought to be. I am a parent, but I shouldn’t find my identity in that. If I do, it could distract me from pursuing Christ. It could keep me from having the marriage I should have.
Other things can weigh us down if they become our identities. Your identity isn’t found in your past failures. That’s not how God sees you. He sees you as righteous because of your union with Christ. Maybe you see yourself as…
- A failed parent
- An ex-adulterer
- A former drunk
- A failure at marriage
- A failure as a son or daughter
- An embarrassment to your family
But none of those are how God looks at His children. He sees you as righteous and only has love for you. Why? Because of your union with Christ.
Romans 8:1 (ESV) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Because of this judicial union with Christ, we have a right standing before the law. We have the righteousness of God’s own Son. You need to cast off those identities you have that weigh you down or distract you from following Christ. You are in Christ and He is in you.
You might wear a lot of identities in your life: son, daughter, student, athlete, employee, spouse, parent, grandparent, and others. None of those are your true identity. Those other identities can be stripped away. They can change. They can actually be disappointments. You are in Christ and He is in you. That’s your identity.
Your identity isn’t your gender, your shame, your hobby, your talent, your personality, or anything else we use to scratch out a significant identity. You are in union with Christ. Your identity is found in Him.
And since that’s because of grace—you didn’t earn it; you also cannot lose it. God gave you that identity, and He won’t take it back.
Union with Christ Affects Our Fellowship with Christ
I think this is unexpected, and I like this truth about our union with Christ.
Matthew 18:20 (ESV) For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Matthew 28:20 (ESV) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
1 Corinthians 1:9 (ESV) God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Understanding our union with Christ has a very personal application. Your fellowship with Jesus depends on it. It’s guaranteed by it.
1 John 1:6–7, 9 (ESV) If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Yes, walking in the light will increase our fellowship with each other (1:7), but if verse 6 means anything—and even the entire passage (1:5-2:2)—then we can have greater or lesser fellowship with God.
Union with Christ brings about a fellowship of Christ with the believer, –Christ takes part in all the labors, temptations, and sufferings of his people; a fellowship of the believer with Christ, –so that Christ’s whole experience on earth is in some measure reproduced in him; a fellowship of all believers with one another, –furnishing a basis for the spiritual unity of Christ’s people on earth, and for the eternal communion of heaven. Augustus Strong, 806
“Christ takes part in all the labors, temptations, and sufferings of his people….” What a tremendous comfort. We might say it this way, “Jesus is with you.” No matter what your circumstances are union with Christ means that He’s with you.
Union with Christ Affects Our Growth
Romans 6:11–14, 19 (ESV) So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
Why are we dead to sin as 6:11 says? Because we died with Christ (Rom 6:6). How could we have possibly died with him? It must be through our union with Christ. And having died with Christ, we are no longer enslaved to sin. Sin cannot dominate us anymore! We used to grow in lawlessness, but now we can grow in holiness.
It’s only through Christ that we can bear fruit. It’s not by muscling up our own willpower to defeat sin. We learn this in John 15. You cannot grow on your own. You cannot bear good fruit on your own. You can because of Christ.
John 15:4–5 (ESV) Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Union with Christ is what allows us to bear fruit. We live in Christ’s strength. You have no ability through your willpower or innate ability to change yourself in a way that pleases God. You cannot produce good fruit outside of Christ. Christ in you and you in Christ—that’s our union with Christ.
Union with Christ secures to the believer the continuously transforming, assimilating power of Christ’s life, –first, for the soul; secondly, for the body, –consecrating it in the present, and in the future raising it up in the likeness of Christ’s glorified body. This continuous influence, so far as it is exerted in the present life, we call Sanctification, the human side of which is Perseverance. Augustus Strong, 805
Don’t believe me or Augustus Strong? Look at these passages.
Galatians 2:20 (ESV) I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Romans 15:18 (ESV) For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed,
Philippians 4:13 (ESV) I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
This is where we get practical help to live a life that glorifies God. All of us know how we should live. Our union with Christ means that we can live the way we should.
Your sanctification will not rise and fall on your spiritual abilities. Yes, you need to work, but you grow because of Christ. Abiding in Him is the power source for growth.
Identity, fellowship, and growth are three practical implications of our union with Christ.