Monday, April 23, 2012

Beyond Sunday: Is Union with Christ Mysticism?

I receive a number of newsletters and such from various Christian sources.  One of these sources is called "Beyond Sunday".  Today's broadcast touched on an area I believe applies well to the paranormal realm, especially where people ask me "What do you mean, 'To be in Christ'?" - Pastor Michael Frisbee

Ephesians 1:7-14

"7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory."

Classic Commentary:

Paul's teaching on union with Christ has often been labeled as Christian "mysticism." This is an appropriate term if understood in a qualified sense. Paul viewed communion with God as an act of divine grace, coming not by any spiritual exercises, but by God's self-revelation ( Gal 1:16 ). Thus, union with Christ is something to accept by faith, not something to achieve by human effort. Neither does being "in Christ" involve the loss of individuality, nor the absorption of the individual into the divine Spirit ( Romans 8:14 Romans 8:16 ; Gal 2:20 ), but the heightening of individual qualities and characteristics. In addition, being "in Christ" is more than mystical union; it involves a moral union that provides the ethical dynamic for Christian living. This is more than a gospel of ethical example (an impossible ideal), but the indwelling of Christ who provides the motive power to live in obedience to God.

For Paul to be "in Christ" was to be "in the Spirit." Paul distinguishes between Christ and the Spirit, but views the function of the latter as mediating the former to believers. As the operative agent of God in the Christian's life, the Spirit never Acts apart from Christ. Thus, although distinct entities, Christ and the Spirit are experienced together, and are the means by which persons come into relation with God. Pauline mysticism, however, is a communal or corporate mysticism. "In Christ" is used in a way that is similar to Paul's understanding of Christians being fellow members of the body of Christ. Incorporation into this body is by faith in Jesus Christ. Having identified with the death and resurrection of Christ, the body is empowered by his Spirit to manifest his presence to the world. The Christian lives in vital union with Christ, expressing corporately the love of Christ personally appropriated by faith.

Union with Christ is union with God. Although Christocentric, Paul's theology is grounded on the premise that "God was in Christ"( 2 Cor 5:19 ). Fellowship with Christ is fellowship with God ( Rom 8:11 ; cf. 1 John 1:3 ). Although union with God is dependent on God's gracious initiative, it also requires a human response ( Eph 2:8 ). Central to Paul's notion of being "in Christ" is the fact of faith. It is the indispensable condition for salvation, a placing of one's trust in the God revealed in Jesus Christ. This faith is the basis for intimate union with Christ, since it is the self-abandonment of the redeemed to the Redeemer. Faith-union thus finds its focal point in the death and resurrection of Christ.

(Excerpt taken from Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, "Union with Christ.")

A Thought to Keep:

Do you view the Christian life as coming to God through spiritual exercises, trying to "imitate Christ" or do you trust that God grants His favor to believers because they are in Christ?

1 comment:

  1. Union with Christ is not just another blessing we is the source from which all other blessings flow. Thanks Pastor Mike for this spiritual treat.


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