United with Christ

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Paul says, In him we have obtained an inheritance (Eph 1:11). Let’s not overlook that tiny phrase which Paul uses several times within Ephesians 1. We are blessed in Christ (Eph 1:3). God chose us in him (Eph 1:4). In him we have redemption through his blood (Eph 1:7). God’s purpose is set forth in Christ (Eph 1:9). He repeats it a total of six, maybe seven times in what was originally one sentence. It must be important.

No matter what aspect of our salvation that Paul mentions, he consistently anchors the thought in Jesus Christ. Our election is in Jesus Christ. Our redemption and forgiveness are in Jesus Christ. Our calling is in Jesus Christ. Our hope and faith are in Jesus Christ. Our eternal reward is in Jesus Christ. The entire scope of salvation depends on Jesus Christ.

God chose a people, and those people believe in him, but that’s not enough. God’s justice must still be satisfied. The penalty for our sin must be paid. Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? (1Co 6:9). Atonement for our sin must be made or else the penalty will be ours to pay. Without his death and resurrection, there can be no basis for God’s choice. There can be no hope. There can be no inheritance. It all hinges on Christ and Christ alone.

Peter preached, There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Ac 4:12). In Romans 6, Paul wrote:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:3-5)

Though it’s difficult for us to fathom, we are so united with Christ that Paul could say we were with him as he suffered and died on the cross. I have this mental image of a group of cowering, miserable sinners watching God’s wrath being hurled at them from heaven when Jesus jumps into its path. He takes the blows himself while everyone else sits idly by, safe and protected. The judgment which God meant for sinners struck his Son instead.

As a result, John says, We are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him (1Jn 3:2). In other words, having died with Christ, having been raised with Christ, existing and abiding in Christ, we will eventually be fully conformed to the image of Christ (Ro 8:29).