As we’ve been surveying the various steps in the order of salvation (from Effectual Calling to Glorification), we have covered Effectual Calling, Regeneration, and Conversion in previous articles. In this article, we will be surveying Union with Christ and Justification.
As soon as a man believes in Christ, certain wonderful things immediately transpire as well. First of all, he is united to Jesus Christ personally, spiritually, and experientially. Second of all, he is immediately and instantaneously justified by the grace of God, through faith. Third of all, he is instantly and immediately definitely or positionally sanctified—free from the bondage of sin. And fourth of all, he is immediately, legally, spiritually, and experientially adopted into the family of God. All of those truths cluster around and are the immediate blessing and result of conversion. When a man repents and believes, he is immediately spiritually joined to Jesus Christ.
This is the big big subject. The Bible talks about our union with Christ, and directly or indirectly mentions our connection to Jesus Christ, over a hundred and fifty times in the New Testament. You know the term, “in Christ,” “in Jesus Christ,” “in him.” The vine is connected to the branches, the branches to the vine; the husband to the wife; the building to the foundation. These are some of the ways that the Bible illustrates our union with Christ. But when the Bible talks about union with Christ, it talks about it in four stages. Union with Christ is the deep subterranean truth and taproot of all blessings in the Christian life. All blessings in the Christian life come forth from our union with Christ. But when the Bible talks about union with Christ, it talks about it in four stages.
Let me review them very quickly. First of all, We are united to Christ and in Christ in eternity past. The Bible says Ephesians 1, “he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.” Now we were not there, we were not even in existence. But we were legally and representatively there in the mind and in the purpose of God. There was a union with Christ in God’s eternal electing choice of us from all eternity. So the Bible talks about a union with Christ in the eternity past. Secondly, the Bible talks about a union with Christ in redemptive history, that is during the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We were not there, but in the mind and the purpose of God, we were united to Christ in His righteous life and His death, and especially in His resurrection. Paul said in Romans, “you have been united to him and his death and resurrection.” When Jesus Christ lived a righteous life, he lived it as a representative on our behalf. When Jesus Christ died a substitutionary sacrificial death, he died as a representative on our behalf. And we were with him there—not actually physically, but legally and representatively. Now thirdly, we are united to Jesus Christ in our own personal experience, and that is what we’re talking about here. We were united to Christ in our own personal experience. That is, when a man believes, he is united to Christ. He was chosen in Christ; he was in and with Christ in his life, death, and resurrection. But the reality of our union with Jesus Christ was activated experientially and personally or was realized when we believed. And our union with Christ has a twofold distinction. That is, we are legally united to Christ and we are spiritually united to Christ.
But, all blessings of the spiritual life flow out of our union with Jesus Christ. This verse (1 Corinthians 1:30) was one of Calvin’s favourite verses, and I encourage you to read Calvin. I believe it is volume two in regards to the issues of the application of salvation and justification and sanctification and union with Christ. “By his doing, not our own, by God’s doing, we are in Christ Jesus who became to us the wisdom from God and that wisdom produced righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” We have a twofold aspect of that union. One is legal by representation and the other is spiritual by regeneration. The former gives us a new position, the latter gives us a new condition. The former deals with the guilt of sin, the latter deals with the power and pollution of sin. The former is the source of our justification, our legal union. The latter is the source of our sanctification in our growth in Jesus Christ.
All blessings, especially justification, sanctification and adoption flow out of our union with Jesus Christ the moment we believe. We are united to Christ, and praise God from whom all blessings flow! And the blessings flow from God to us by mediation, through our legal and spiritual union with Jesus Christ. The moment you believe, you are united savingly to Jesus Christ, and all of the benefits of salvation, now flow like a mighty river through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me mention several other glorious realities. Study union with Christ. The moment you believe, you’re united to him legally, and this produces a pardon from the guilt of sin by the sacrifice of Christ, who paid the penalty. Union with Christ is legal and spiritual. It is the source of all blessings, including as I said, justification. And you know well, I trust, that justification has two parts. Justification is a legal declaration of righteousness and it is a pardon from the guilt of sin. Justification is not a change of our nature, it is a change of our status. Justification is not something that happens inside of us. Justification is something that happens outside of us. Justification does not give us a new nature. Justification gives us a new legal record.
You must understand the nature of justification. We are not justified by our own righteousness, we are justified by what the theologians call an alien righteousness, a righteousness outside of us. That is the righteousness of Christ that he accomplished in his life. And when we believe in Jesus Christ, he will give us that righteousness by what the Bible calls “imputation,” a legal transfer from one account to another. Justification is not progressive, it is instantaneous. It doesn’t change our nature or our condition. It changes our status or our legal record. It is not something that we produce. It is something outside of us. It is not our own righteousness. It is the righteousness of Jesus Christ that is not infused into us (like the Catholics say), and forms the basis of our justification. It is imputed to us. It is a change of our legal record, and is the basis of our assurance. The moment we believe, we are justified by grace through faith by an imputed righteousness that God transfers from that glorified God-man in heaven to our legal record. Justification does not change our nature, or our condition. Justification changes our legal record and status in the courtroom of God. Luther and others, well said, justification is the foundation and it is the rising and falling of the church. When you mix sanctification and justification, you get legalism. That’s what Rome gives you, that’s what the liberals give you, that’s what the Pelagians give you, that’s what the Unitarians give you. They tell us that you are justified by your own righteousness, you are justified by your own obedience, and that you are further justified, you gain and maintain your justification, by your own growing obedience. That is a lie.
As soon as we believe, we are justified by grace through faith. Having been justified by faith, Paul said in Romans 5, “we have peace with God,” which is legal peace. So that, Romans 8:1 says, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.”
Effectual calling, regeneration, conversion, union with Christ, justification. That is the order of salvation we have talked about so far. In our next article, we will cover the remaining steps: Positional Sanctification, Adoption, Progressive Sanctification, Perseverance, and Glorification.
This article is the transcript of the talk by Brother Andy H in the meeting held in August 2021 entitled ‘The Order of Salvation – The Application of Redemption.’
Please click here to read Part 1 of the article on “The Order of Salvation – The Application of Redemption” by Bro. Andy H.
Please click here to read Part 2 of the article on “The Order of Salvation – The Application of Redemption” by Bro. Andy H.
Please click here to read Part 3 of the article on “The Order of Salvation – The Application of Redemption” by Bro. Andy H.
Please click here to read Part 4 of the article on “The Order of Salvation – The Application of Redemption” by Bro. Andy H.
Andy H. has several years of pastoral ministry. He has served as a cross-cultural missionary and is passionate about encouraging pastors and men training for pastoral ministry to pursue holiness.