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For the Reformed (mostly): on Union with Christ

Discussion in 'Salvation (Soteriology)' started by P92, May 15, 2019.

  1. P92

    P92 Member

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    Hi all,

    For my reformed friends: Question 30 of the cathechism states:

    "The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling."

    "Working faith in us" quite obviously points to the "creation" of faith in the believer's heart. But does this "working faith in us" include the exercise of said faith, as in "I believe Christ died for my sins"

    Otherwise said, how does the working of faith in us unite us to Christ?

    My question is motivated by the debate between the WTS and the WSC on this topic of union with Christ. I have not picked a side and would just like to better understand the material first before attempting to adjudicate.

    Thanks,
    P92
     
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  2. Sola1517

    Sola1517 Saint-in-Progress (Looking for a Church)

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    The thing about it is, you do not only abide in Christ. Christ abides in you via the Holy Spirit. (John 15:4, 1 John 2:27) In effect, faith is what unites us to Christ because God doesn't fail. (1 Corinthians 13:8) Therefore our faith doesn't fail even when we are faithless, because God is the primary actor. (2 Timothy 2:11-13, Ephesians 2:10) That's my 2 cents.
     
  3. P92

    P92 Member

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    Sola1517, thanks for writing.

    When were you united to Christ?

    Was it before you believed that He died for your sins or after you believed that He died for your sins?

    In other words, what does "by working faith in us" in the below quote mean?

    "The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling."
     
  4. Oscarr

    Oscarr Senior Veteran Supporter

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    This is not regeneration by the Holy Spirit. A person cannot be baptised into the body of Christ before accepting Christ as Saviour. That is putting the cart before the horse.

    What actually happens is that the Holy Spirit shines the light of the gospel into the unbeliever's heart, penetrating the blindness that the god of this world had made in the unbeliever, through the preaching of the gospel from a preacher who has been sent of God to make disciples for Christ. It is in receiving that light that the unbeliever can decide whether to receive Christ or not.

    This is not for just a selected few as Calvinists believe, but it is there for every person who is prepared to listen to the preaching of the gospel. It is up to every outreach worker to spend time in prayer and fellowship with the Lord so that there is no hindrance to the Holy Spirit working through them to cut through to the hearts of unbelievers as Peter did when he preached to the crowd at Pentecost. As the result of Peter's preaching, they were cut to the heart and cried out, "What shall we do, brethren?" Peter said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." And 3000 souls came to Christ.

    So there is a progression:
    Being empowered by the Holy Spirit
    Preaching the gospel of Christ
    Unbelievers cut to the heart and convicted of sin
    Believing on Christ for salvation.
    Regeneration by the Holy Spirit resulting in true conversion.
     
  5. P92

    P92 Member

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    Oscarr, appreciate your input. This thread is not meant to be a discussion on election (there are plenty of those already on the forum) but rather a discussion on the quote from the Westminster Cathechism. Thanks for your sharing your thoughts however and for taking the time to write.
     
  6. Sola1517

    Sola1517 Saint-in-Progress (Looking for a Church)

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    I believe the Bible teaches before. Are you asking me about my story specifically?
    In essence Ephesians 1:3-4. I do not doubt predestination.
     
  7. P92

    P92 Member

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    "The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling."

    This Westminster quote is not dealing with decretal union but rather existential/mystical union, which takes place in this life.

    So in your life, when did the Spirit unite you to Christ? Was it before you believed that Christ died for your sins?
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2019
  8. Sola1517

    Sola1517 Saint-in-Progress (Looking for a Church)

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    Yes. I believe so.
     
  9. P92

    P92 Member

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    2 Cor 5:17 says "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation"

    How can you be a new creation, in/united to Christ, before you exercise faith?
     
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  10. Sola1517

    Sola1517 Saint-in-Progress (Looking for a Church)

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    How can Christ be slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8) and yet die at the right time? (Romans 5:6) It's the eternal covenant of grace.
     
  11. P92

    P92 Member

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    In post #8 above you said that in this life, you were united to Christ before you believed.

    So, how can you be a new creation, in/united to Christ, in this life, before you exercise faith?
     
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  12. Sola1517

    Sola1517 Saint-in-Progress (Looking for a Church)

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    Christ dies for me before I was saved. :eyes: Faith is not what unites me to Christ, atonement is.
     
  13. His student

    His student Well-Known Member

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    I'll have to disagree about that.

    Being united with Christ involves being sealed with His Holy Spirit. That happens after we exercise saving faith.

    "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise" Ephesians 1:13

    Even though Christ atoned for my sins some 2000 years ago - I was an enemy of God and a child of wrath, even as the rest of the world, before I believed.

    One cannot be united with Christ and remain an enemy of God and a child of wrath.

    I know that this isn't a thread about election. But even the elect are enemies of God before exercising justifying faith. Neither election nor the atonement in and of themselves change our status before God - we all remain enemies until we are united with Christ through faith.

    We were separated from God by not believing and acting on His Word and apparently God feels that we will not be reunited with Him unless we believe and act on His Word concerning Christ.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
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  14. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    No, but they're connected. Traditional Reformed theology says that God brings us to faith. "Working faith in us" is a way of referring to faith specifically as God's responsibility. But the result is actual faith, which would include the person believing that Christ died for them.

    There's this odd misunderstanding that Reformed theology is purely a matter of God's decree, with no actual effect on the person. But God's decree is his intention to make sure that the person actually comes to have faith, and of course his commitment for the Holy Spirit to bring that about.
    That's really a question for Paul. By faith in Christ we die with him to sin and rise to new life. Faith is what makes us participants in what Christ has done for us. See the early section of Rom 6. As I read it, this is Paul's concept as well. (Of course, Paul — somewhat embarrassingly for many Protestants — associates the union with baptism.)

    I guess that puts me on the WTS side of the debate, though be aware that I'm not quite so convinced that God has decreed damnation for anyone as Calvin was.

    The PCUSA doesn't normally get involved in these kinds of debates, so this it the first I've heard of it. But it seems odd to find people like Horton rejecting one of the key points that distinguishes Reformed soteriology. The WTS people seem to agree with the reading of Calvin that sees our mystical union with Christ as central to being a Christian.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2019
  15. P92

    P92 Member

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    Hi Hedrick,

    How are you my friend? Thank you for writing, I appreciate your thoughts very much.

    So, given what you said about the WTS, would you say that for you, the ordo salutis is something like:

    EC -> Actual Faith -> Union with Christ -> Justification ?
     
  16. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    I’ve looked at bit more at both Paul and McGrath’s work on justification. He think’s Calvin’s ordo is

    election -> unio mystica -> justification and sanctification in parallel

    Looking at Paul, I think there’s merit to this. Paul bases sanctification directly on the union, Rom 6. Unfortunately he doesn’t connect faith or justification to it directly. I’m going to say that faith is reliance on Christ’s death for us, so it’s basically reliance on the union. Thus I think there’s an intermediate between the union and justification. In fact Paul says our faith is imputed as righteousness, and justification recognizes that we are righteous, so perhaps

    election -> unio mystica -> (faith -> imputation -> justification) and sanctification in parallel

    Calvin would agree, but would say that through our faith, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, and justification is based on that. What Paul says, however, is that justification is based on faith. There’s no sign in Paul that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. (I can comment on that separately if you like.)

    Election and effective calling seem the same thing.

    I noted above that I'm not so convinced that God ever ordains anyone to damnation, nor with other aspects of the Augustinian picture. (Among other problems, I don't think it survives what we know about the origin of humans.) That doesn't affect most of this, but I'd be inclined to replace election with something like "God's gracious call." The term "effective" is a technical term in Reformed theology that is closely tied to double predestination.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2019
  17. P92

    P92 Member

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    How do you reconcile Galatians 3:24-27 with this ordo?

    "26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. "

    Baptized into Christ = Faith in Christ

    So, v. 27 could be re-written as 'For as many of you as have had faith in Christ/were justified have been united to Christ'

    Therefore, how could union with Christ logically precede justification?

    Noted, thanks.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2019
  18. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    This has the usual frustrating problem that Paul doesn't connect the union with faith explicitly. You're assuming that faith = baptism. But Paul doesn't quite say that. It is conceivable that he (consistent with Reformed theology) thinks that Christ unites us to himself first, and faith is our trust in this. Faith isn't just an abstract belief that certain things happened historically. It's a trust that Christ actually died for us. I.e. that we died with him.

    As I noted, trying to get neat diagrams from Paul may be a hopeless task.

    If you're right, this would be the result:

    faith -> (union -> sanctification) and (justification) in parallel

    I don't think you can base justification on the union in this scheme, because Paul so consistently bases justification on faith.

    In any case, I think justification and sanctification are parallel. It may be an unsolvable question, because Paul may not be thinking in these terms.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2019
  19. P92

    P92 Member

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    No, I'm not assuming that faith = baptism if by that you mean water baptism. For Paul, being baptized into Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit who works faith in the believer.

    There is a parallel between Gal 3:27 ("For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ", i.e., have been united to Christ) and Gal 3:28b ("For you are all one in Christ Jesus", again this speaks of union with Christ). The explanatory for clause in Gal 3:27 in turn explains Gal 3:26 ("For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus"). So Paul is connecting faith with union by the linkage between vv. 26, 27 and 28b.

    Hedrick, are you making an attempt to exegete the text?
     
  20. P92

    P92 Member

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    Can you think of any verse that would support this idea?

    Also, how can Christ unite us to Himself (in this life, mystical/existential union) when we are unjustified, and hence, still in our sins?
     
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