Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Mystery of Union

Paul's teaching to believers focused on a great mystery. To the church in Colossae he wrote of

"...the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:25-27)

Christ in us. That is our only expectation of experiencing and expressing the glory of God. Elsewhere, Paul expressed the mystery in another way:

"But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit (with Him.)" (I Cor. 6:17)

Actually, the words "with Him" aren't even in the original Greek. The translators added them for clarification. So:

"The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit."

He or she, a spiritual being, who is joined to the Lord, is one spirit. There are two... they are one. You and He are one.

We are one spirit with God. We function as one. We are not absorbed into the Lord, however. There is an I and there is a He, but we are joined to Him and we function as one. It is a function of cooperation, like a union of gears that mesh together. Our union with God doesn't mean that we are so swallowed up in God that we lose our identity. But neither is there a separation. Rather, the two function as one for the purposes of the greater one, God.

He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. That is a mystery. One plus one equals one. How can that be? The divine and the human are one.

Until we know and live out of our union with Christ, we will never fully manifest the life of God within us. Some of it will inevitably shine through now and then, despite us. But for the most part we will manifest our own merely human life.

Until we know union, we are constantly confronted by the illusion of separation. "God is up there; I am down here. How do I draw close to God? Give me a plan. Give me a program." Plenty of people are ready with the answers. "Read your Bible. Pray. Study. Witness. Tithe. Take communion. Here are the plans. Here are the programs."

But once you know your union with God, there's nothing left for you to do. Oh, you may still do some of the outer things. But you aren't doing them to get close to God. You and God are one. There is no more separation.

When you begin living out of your union with Jesus Christ, you move beyond Christ plus anything, no matter how good it might be. ...We live and move and have our being in God, who is our life. We are saved by His life. He is our life.

Christ lives out His life in us ­ funny old you, funny old me. We have all kinds of different shapes, forms, and fashions, all kinds of interests, all kinds of diversity, all kinds of uniqueness. Praise the Lord. We don't have to look like, act like, talk like, or be like anybody else again. We are free to be ourselves. People see us, but we know it's Jesus living through us.

From: Stone, Dan, The Rest of the Gospel: When the partial Gospel has worn you out. Dallas: One Press. 2000. pgs. 80-82.

6 comments:

RJW said...

FABULOUS!

That's it! :)

Alison Fincher said...

I agree with this passage, but I've never been able to reconcile these ideas and the verse that says, "I have been crucified with Christ and yet I live--not I, but Christ that lives within me." That verse has always scared me, to be honest, because it sounds like a Christian's identity is completely subsumed. Could you explain it?

John Fincher said...

Alison,
Your IDENTITY was changed the moment you believed, but God does not want to change your PERSONALITY. He created you and that's what He wants you to remain true to. His Word teaches over and over that the "Body" is made up of various members.

He does, however, want to be your very life source. He wants you to live His life through you using all your quirks, hangups,and everything that makes you...you.

Alison Fincher said...

Then is this a case of substance and accidents? The accidents of my personality and physical appearance remain while I metaphysically become Christ? I guess I struggle intellectually with separating my identity from my personality.

John Fincher said...

Alison,
This is long but speaks more about the union and how it works.

http://www.christasus.com/Letters/DanStone/DSOnePlusOneEqualsOne.htm

Joel B. said...

Great stuff! A branch is of course not the Vine, and a body part is of course not the Head or the whole body, but indeed the Vine and the branches are one, and the Head and the rest of the body are one. Each body part is truly unique, and is a member of the body as a whole. As Paul said, we are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.

We have become partakers of the divine nature. That of course doesn't mean that we are God, but that we have become partakers of who He is. He has joined Himself together with us in this new life in Christ. We're in an inseparable union with Him.

"When Christ who is our life appears..." Christ is our life; we find life in nothing else but Christ's life that is in us. John, I agree that as unique members of His body we 'maintain' our personalities and at the same time we find our identity in Him.

In a sense I see that when we think of ourselves as "vessels" or "clay" or "the house of God" (New Testament descriptions of God's people), it's our minds, our wills, our personalities, and so on, that He works through.

Why did Paul call us clay jars? Because we're clay jars! God's glory and power and life are seen in us weak vessels as the weak vessels carry the message of the gospel in what we say and do - as God works it all out in us.

I think to be crucified with Christ is the prerequisite to being raised again with Him! The life I live isn't "mine" because I died... but yet I was raised up together with Christ in to a new life in which I partake in Him as He lives in and through me.