“…them which are in Christ Jesus…”
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches…”
“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”
Order of Contents
What Way Union to Christ is Before & After Faith
Spiritual Union to Christ is the Fount of Justification, Adoption, Sanctification &
Beza, Theodore –
Zanchi, Jerome – Ch. 12, ‘Concerning the True Dispensation of Redemption, Salvation & Life: & therefore the Necessity of our Union & Communion with Christ’ in The Whole Body of Christian Religion… (London, 1659), pp. 108-30
Perkins, William – On the Creed
Owen, John – ch. 10, ‘The Glory of Christ in the Communication of Himself unto Believers’ in Meditations & Discourses on the Glory of Christ in Works, vol. 1, pp. 360-7
Payson, Edward – ‘Blessed Reciprocity: the Reciprocal Interest of Christ & his People’ in Works 1.552-60
Shaw, Samuel – ‘On Communion with God’ in Emmanuel: or a Discovery as it Imports a Living Principle in the Minds of Men, & on Communion with God (Galsgow, 1829), pp. 263-304 The volume has an introductory essay by Robert Gordon.
Shaw (1635-1696) was an English, presbyterian, non-conformist minister. He wrote a work on the plague and performed a funeral oration for the puritan minister, Thomas Blake.
Gordon (1786–1853) was a minister in the Church of Scotland at the time, but would join the Free Church of Scotland at the Disruption (1843) and would succeed Thomas Chalmers as a professor of divinity at the Free Church College.
Berkhof, Louis – ‘The Mystical Union’ (1950) 18 paragraphs, from his Systematic Theology
Zanchi, Jerome – The Spiritual Marriage between Christ & His Church & Every One of the Faithful (RHB, 2021) 152 pp. ToC
“Developing from Girolama Zanchi’s exegetical labors through Ephesians, Spiritual Marriage draws readers into the rich theological of doctrine of union with Christ. Following the lead of the apostle Paul, Zanchi demonstrates how our earthly marriages fulfill their truest purpose by drawing our attention toward the spiritual marriage between Christ and His Church. By paying attention to the Genesis account of Adam’s marriage to Eve, to pertinent Old Testament laws, and to the teachings of Jesus and His apostles, we begin to understand something of that higher and heavenly union.”
Sibbes, Richard – Bowels Opened, or a Discovery of the Near & Dear Love, Union & Communion betwixt Christ & the Church, & Consequently betwixt Him & every believing soul, Delivered in Diverse Sermons on the Fourth, Fifth & Sixth Chapters of the Canticles… (London, 1639) Detailed ToC
Sibbes (c.1577-1635) was an English puritan.
Hall, Joseph – Christ-Mystical, or the Blessed Union of Christ & his Members ToC in Holy Raptures, or, Pathetical Meditations of the Love of Christ, Together with a Treatise of Christ Mystical... (London, 1652), pp. 1-152
Hall (1574-1656) was a godly, Anglican bishop.
Calamy the Elder, Edmund – Evidence for Heaven: containing Infallible Signs & Real Demonstrations of our Union with Christ & Assurance of Salvation, with an Appendix of Laying Down certain Rules to be Observed for Preserving our Assurance once Obtained (London, 1657) 245 pp.
Calamy (1600-1666) was an English presbyterian minister and Westminster divine.
Owen, John – Of Communion with God the Father, Son & Holy Ghost (1657) ToC in Works ed. Goold (NY: Robert Carter, 1851; rep. Banner), vol. 2, pp. 2-274
Owen (1616-1683) was an English, congregationalist puritan.
Polhill, Edward – An Answer to the Discourse of Mr. William Sherlock, Touching the Knowledge of Christ, & our Union & Communion with Him (London, 1675) 621 pp. no ToC EEBO
Polhill (c.1622-c.1694) was a lay-theologian commended by John Owen, though he was a hypothetical universalist. Sherlock was an influential, rationalizing Anglican bishop and theological writer.
Ferguson, Robert – ch. 3, ‘Of the Union of Believers with Christ’ Outline in The Interest of Reason in Religion… & the Nature of the Union Betwixt Christ & Believers; (with Reflections on Several Late Writings, especially Mr. Sherlock’s Discourse…)… (London, 1675), pp. 421-665
Ferguson (c. 1637–1714) was a Scottish, presbyterian minister.
Sherlock was a rationalizing, Anglican bishop and influential writer. Ferguson quotes him as saying, “…the methods of divine grace are denyed to consist in the producti∣on of any new principles by an omnipotent & irresistible Power…” (p. 430), that is, he denied monergistic regeneration and any vital, organic, spiritual union of Christ with believers, thus allowing natural men to adopt Christianity as natural men.
After introductory discoursing, sections 6-12 deny, one by one, the believer’s union with Christ to be the same as other unions: 6. the hypostatic union, 7. a bodily union, 8. a union of becoming the same person, 9. not only a legal union, 10. not merely a union of love, 11. not by a previous union to the Church, 12. not a political union. Section 13 is: “An Intelligible Notion of it assigned, and the whole shut up.” (pp. 653-65)
“1st. The highest and closest union is between those things that are actuated by one spirit dwelling and moving in them…
2dly. Things at the greatest distance, and between which there is no physical continuity, may be acted by the same spirit, providing he be immense and infinite…
3dly. ‘Tis Christ as mediator that believers are united to…
4. The Holy Ghost did in a singular manner operate upon and reside in the human nature of Christ…
5thly. The Holy Ghost is the immediate renewer and sanctifier of the elect…
6thly. ‘Tis from, by, and through Jesus Christ as mediator that the Spirit, whether it be with respect to his Immediate seisure of us and dwelling in us, or with reference to any of his saving operations, is given to and bestowed upon us…
7ly. Through the communication of the Spirit from Christ to us, and immediately upon his taking the possession of us, the nature of Christ, the seed of God, and a vital living principle comes to be formed in us.”
The Method of Grace, in bringing Home the Eternal Redemption… wherein the Great Mystery of our Union & Communion with Christ is Opened & Applied… (London, 1681) Outline Index
Sermon 1, ‘That the Lord Jesus Christ with all his precious benefits becomes ours by God’s special and effectual Application’
Sermon 2, ‘That there is a strict and dear Union betwixt Christ and all true believers’
Sermon 5, ‘That those Souls which have Union with Christ, are quickened with a Supernatural principle of life by the Spirit of God in order thereunto’
Sermon 6, ‘That the receiving of the Lord Jesus Christ is that saving and vital act of faith which gives the soul right both to his person and benefits’
Sermon 8, ‘That all true believers have a real communion or fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ’
Sermon 15, ‘That Jesus Christ is the only Consolation of Believers, and of none besides them’
Sermon 17, ‘That Jesus Christ has purchased and procured special favour and acceptation with God for all that are in him’
Sermon 18, ‘That interest in Christ sets the soul at liberty from all that bondage whereunto it was subjected in its natural state’
Sermon 24, ‘1. The thing to be tried, our Union with Christ.
2. The trial of it, by the giving of his Spirit to us. 3. The certainty of the trial this way: ‘hereby we know”
England’s Duty under the Present Gospel Liberty from Rev. 3:20, wherein is opened… the invaluable privileges of union and communion granted to all who receive Him... (London, 1689)
Sermon 6, ‘That Jesus Christ is an Earnest Suitor for Union
& Communion with the Souls of Sinners’
Sermon 10, ‘That Christ will Certainly come into the Soul that
Opens to Him; and will not come empty handed, but will bring rich entertainment with Him; ‘I will come in to him, and sup with him”
Sermon 11, ‘That there is a mutual, sweet and intimate communion betwixt Jesus Christ & believers in this
Bagshawe, William – Essays on Union to Christ: being the Substance of Several Sermons (London, 1703) 395 pp. ToC
Bagshaw (1628–1702) was an English presbyterian and nonconformist minister.
pp. 71-72 of ch. 11, section 15 in H. Zanchius his Confession of Christian Religion… (Cambridge, 1599)
“…and that in our name He took unto Himself possession of the heavenly inheritance: ‘and sits at the right hand of God’ (Eph. 1:20), that is, has taken to Himself power over all things in heaven and in earth: So that, in asmuch as He is our Mediator and is man, He has obtained of his Father the second place: is appointed head of the Church, as well which is in heaven, as which is on earth: that from Him, and even from his flesh, is conveyed by his Holy Spirit, whatsoever pertains to the quickening and to the spiritual life of us, to all those, which as members are fastened unto Him their head.
And therefore we acknowledge, believe and confess that in Christ alone is placed our whole salvation, redemption, justice, favor of God and eternal life: according to that saying, ‘Who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption’ (1 Cor. 1:30): Also, ‘He is our peace’: Also, ‘Jehouah our righteousness’, ‘in Him we have redemption by his blood, forgiveness of sins’: Also, ‘It pleased the Father that in Him all fullness should dwell’: Also, ‘Life is in his Son’ (Eph. 2:14; Jer. 23:6; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:19; 1 Jn. 5:11).
And therefore we know that the promise concerning redemption, which was made unto the first man, did receive accomplishment in this other man Jesus Christ: so that whosoever will be made partaker of it, he must needs be joined to his head Christ and be made a member of Him. For we have redemption and salvation not only by Him, as a Mediator, but also in Him, as our head. This is our faith concerning Christ the redeemer, his person, natures, and office, and the salvation of mankind fulfilled and laid up in Him.”
‘Of the Office & Person of Christ the Only Mediator’ in A Collection of Certain Learned Discourses… (Oxford, 1600), p. 245
“XI. Therefore all Christ is everywhere, although
his human nature, since his ascension untill the
day of the Last Judgment, be nowhere but in Heaven.
Mt. 28:6, ‘He is risen, he is not here,’ Mt. 26:11, ‘Me ye have not always with you.’ Jn. 16:28; ‘I leave the world and go unto my Father.’ Acts 3:21, ‘Whom the heavens must contain, until the time of restoring of all things.
XII. And the godly in what place of heaven or
earth so ever they abide, are united to the human
nature assumed by the Son of God, as members to
their head, the same Holy Spirit dwelling in Christ
by unity of essence with the Word, and in the godly
1. Cor. 12:13, ‘By one Spirit we are all baptized into
one body.’ Eph. 4:4, ‘There is one body and one Spirit.’ 1
Jn. 4:13, ‘By this we know that we abide in Him and He
in us, because He hath given us of his Spirit.’ Rom. 8:11,
‘If the Spirit of Him who hath raised etc. dwell in you etc.’
Irenaeus, bk. 3, ch. 19, ‘As of dry meal one lump cannot be made, nor one bread: so neither could we which are many, be made one in Christ Jesus, without that water which is from Heaven.”
Muller, Richard – ‘unio mystica sive praesentia gratiae tantum’ in Dictionary of Latin & Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology 1st ed. (Baker, 1985), pp. 314-5
Muller, Richard –
Dictionary of Latin & Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology 1st ed. (Baker, 1985), p. 313
“essential union; i.e., a union of two different essences, such as the union of all things with God according to the divine omnipraesentia (q.v.) and omnipotentia (q.v.) and manifest in the divine concursus.
This union of God with all things can also be called the unio generalis, or general union, inasmuch as it belongs to the universal nonsaving work of God as opposed to the unio specialis or unio mystica (q.v.).”
In What Way Union to Christ is Before & After Faith
Flavel, John – Sermon 6, ‘That the Receiving of the Lord Jesus Christ is that Saving & Vital Act of Faith which gives the Soul Right both to his Person & Benefits’ in The Method of Grace, in bringing Home the Eternal Redemption… wherein the Great Mystery of our Union & Communion with Christ is Opened & Applied… (d. 1708; London, 1681), pp. 113-34
Witsius, Herman – Ch. 6, ‘Whether the Elect are United to Christ Before Faith…’, Sections 1-4 of Conciliatory or Irenical Animadversions on the Controversies Agitated in Britain: under the Unhappy names of Antinomians & Neonomians (Glasgow, 1807), pp. 67-9
In sections 1-2 Witsius carefully defines the union of Christ to the elect while they are in their natural corruption (by decree and eternal consent), which does not involve a spiritual union.
Section 3 describes a certain spiritual union in effectual calling before faith, which produces faith, since faith flows from spiritual life. Section 4 is of the mutual spiritual union upon faith, with Christ’s benefits following.
Witsius’s teaching is in accord with the Westminster Larger Catechism below.
Halyburton, Thomas – Section XI in ‘A Modest Inquiry whether Regeneration or Justification has the Precedency in Order of Nature’ in The Works of the Rev. Thomas Halyburton… (London : Thomas Tegg, 1835), p. 553
Survey of Spiritual Antichrist, Pt. 2, ch. 61, ‘How Faith Justifies…’, p. 108
“Objection 1 [of Saltmarsh, an Antinomian]: ‘Christ is not ours by any act of our own, but by an infinite act of God’s imputing his righteousness. Therefore, Christ is not ours by faith.’
[Rutherford’s] Answer: Christ is not ours, by any act of our own, as by a ransom, a meritorious and principal cause. [This is] True, therefore [Saltmarsh concludes], [Christ is] not [ours] by faith, as a condition knowing, apprehending, feeling, applying, receiving, [and] opening the everlasting doors, that the King of glory may enter in. It’s false [that is, Saltmarsh’s inference].
So bread is ours only by an omnipotent act of Him that causes the earth to bring forth, as by the first principal and effectual cause: Therefore [Saltmarsh would conclude], bread is not our’s in a civil way, by plowing, sowing, earing, and in a spiritual way, by laying hold by faith on the Covenant, in which the world, the things of this life, are made ours (1 Cor. 3:21); this is a lax and vain consequence.”
Note that Westminster defines union with Christ, not as an act, but as a work, and that not before effectual calling. Nor does it define it as only occuring upon, or after, faith, but in connecting it with effectual calling leaves it open that the inception of the spiritual union, in a certain respect, may be before faith. Witsius teaches such above.
“Q. 66. What is that union which the elect have with Christ?
A. The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace,[f] whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband;[g] which is done in their effectual calling.[h]
[f] Eph. 1:22. Eph. 2:6-8
[g] 1 Cor. 6:17. John 10:28. Eph. 5:23,30
[h] 1 Pet. 5:10. 1 Cor. 1:9“
That Spiritual Union to Christ is the Fount of Justification, Adoption, Sanctification & Glorification
Westminster Larger Catechism [See also the ordering of the questions that follow this question]
“Q. 69. What is the communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
A. The communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification,[t] adoption,[v] sanctification, and whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him.[w]
[t] Rom. 8:30
[v] Eph. 1:5
[w] 1 Cor. 1:30“
‘unio mystica sive praesentia gratiae tantum’ in Dictionary of Latin & Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology 1st ed. (Baker, 1985), pp. 314-5
“The orthodox therefore define the unio mystica as the spiritual conjunction (conjunctio spiritualis) of the Triune God with the believer in and following justification. It is a substantial and graciously effective indwelling.
In relation to the ordo salutis (q.v.), or order of salvation, the Protestant scholastics distinguish the initial unitio (q.v.), or uniting, of the unio mystica, which is the basis for the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer and which corresponds with the adoption (adoptio) of the believer, and the ongoing unio, or union, of the unio mystica, which continues concurrent with sanctification throughout the life of the believer…”
Szegedin Pannonius, Stephan – ‘Of the Conjunction & Incorporation of Believers with Christ’ in Common Places of Pure Theology… (Basil, 1585/93), I. ‘Of God, in General’, pp. 88-89
Piscator, Johannes – Locus 13, ‘Of the Conjunction, or Union of the Faithful with Christ, & also of Communion’ in Theological Theses (Herborn, 1606-1607), vol. 1, pp. 239-45 This locus comes after the one on Saving Faith and comes before Repentance and Justification.
The Divisions of Theology Framed according to a Natural Orderly Method (Basil, 1590; Geneva, 1623)
36. ‘Of Communion with Christ’, pp. 110-15
43. ‘Of Conservation in this Communion’, pp. 148-51
ch. 35, ‘On the Communion of the Saints’ in A System of Theology (Hanau, 1609; 1615), vol. 2, bk. 6, cols. 2921-33
Crocius, Ludwig – ch. 17, ‘The Consequences & Effects of Christian Faith, where is Treated of the Union of the Faithful with God & the Evangelical Justification of Them’ in A System of Sacred Theology (Bremen, 1636), bk. 4, ‘Of the Principles & Means of Human Salvation’, pp. 1115-26
Voet, Gisbert – ‘Of the Communion of the Saints, pt. 1’ in Select Theological Disputations, vol. 5 (Utrecht, 1648-1667), pp. 387-98
Note that though this disputation comes after one on the Church, yet union with Christ (and not just the saints) is a major topic of it. Union with Christ was often treated under the common place of the communion of the saints. The second disputation following on the same topic responds to objections against the holding of conventicles.
“But when it pleased God, who separated me [Paul] from my mother’s womb [before he was converted], and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach Him…”
“…Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me [Paul].”
“And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth… into the ark… as God had commanded him: and the Lord shut him in. And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark…”