Ephesians 1 and Union with Christ

The doctrine of our union with Christ is unmistakably present in Scripture. Certainly, you would have to blatantly lie to deny it. It is arguably the most precious doctrine in Scripture because it is central to our salvation.

And yet, it is widely misunderstood and, even more so, neglected because of its confusing details. Everybody loves to talk about our union in Christ, but not too many people know for certain what it entails.

We see our union with Christ all over Ephesians. What I’d like to do is expound upon this doctrine as mentioned in this theologically rich book of the Bible. There are seven passages of Scripture in Ephesians that speak to our union with Christ, and they’re all in chapter one: Ephesians 1:3-4, 6, 7, 11, and 13.

What I would love to do is speak to our union with Him in all of Scripture. However, that would certainly take more than one post so I will settle with Ephesians 1.

Ephesians 1:3 – Every Spiritual Blessing

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…” (Ephesians 1:3)

What does it mean to be blessed? What does Paul mean here when he says “[The Father] has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing”?

This can be hard to wrap our minds around—because this can mean many things—but I think it is biblical to say that “every spiritual blessing” pertains to not only receiving Christ Himself but all His benefits.

So, Paul’s point here is that we have received all these spiritual blessings because we are in Christ. Our union with Christ is the only reason we are able to receive these “spiritual blessings.” No union with Christ? No spiritual blessings.

Ephesians 1:4 – Chosen in Him

“…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him…” (Ephesians 1:4)

Paul inextricably links our election with our union in Christ. “In Christ, in connection with Christ,” John Piper said, “God sees us before we existed in such a way that our election hangs on our being connected somehow with Jesus before we even exist” (source).

This is partly a mystery—but not a contradiction—because we don’t fully know how God performed election, simply because He is infinite and we are finite. But we can still marvel at it.

Think about it: before we were born—before we took our first breath—God, in His unfathomable mercy, chose to save us in Christ before He created the world. Our election is permanently linked with our being in Christ. So, the implication is that if we were not “in Christ,” then we would not be “chosen in Him.” We could not have been chosen by God apart from being in Christ. And why is that? The best answer is this: because that’s how God decided to do it, and what He decides is always good.

Of course, there is a more practical answer to that because see other doctrines in the Bible that would answer that question. But, I will not attempt to answer the foreseeable questions, since that’s not the point of this post.

Ephesians 1:6 – His Glorious Grace

“…to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6)

We receive his glorious grace in Christ. Again, the only way that people ever receive this glorious grace—which is, undoubtedly, saving grace—is in Christ. If we are not in Christ, we will not receive this glorious grace!

Do you see a pattern here?

Ephesians 1:7 – Redemption & Forgiveness

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…” (Ephesians 1:7)

What does redemption mean? To put it simply, our redemption means that God, through Christ, has removed our guilt and freed us from sin that enslaved us. So, with that being said, we have no redemption, no forgiveness, no nothing without being in Christ.

It is clear to see that God orchestrated our salvation—and all the different aspects of it—through our union with Christ.

Ephesians 1:11 – Obtained an Inheritance

“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…” (Ephesians 1:11)

This inheritance that we obtained in Christ, is, in so many words, Heaven. We do not get Heaven unless we are in Christ. And we know how we get to be in Christ (repentance and faith). And we have a guarantee of that inheritance—a down payment if you will—in the Holy Spirit. Which leads me to the next point.

Ephesians 1:13-14 – Sealed for that Day

“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, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)

The Holy Spirit is our seal. Our guarantee. Our down payment. But we do not get that seal, that guarantee, that down payment unless we are in Christ. It’s all connected with our union with Christ!

The Pattern to See

I hope by this point you have all seen the pattern. Nothing—I repeat, nothing!—in all of God’s plan of the redemptive story happens outside of Christ. He has orchestrated it where His plan of redemption is all connected with our union in Christ. We do not receive anything unless we are in Christ.

Union with Christ is at the center point of the redemptive story. No union with Christ, no salvation.

Friends, let us marvel at the way in which God has decreed for our redemption to take place. We are forever linked and in union with Christ. When He sees us, He sees Christ. Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

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