Union with Christ is one of the most important doctrines for Christian theology and for the Christian life. It is also, perhaps, one of the most neglected.
There are few preachers more gifted than Sinclair Ferguson at unfolding the beauty of union with Christ. At the end of this post see a couple of talks he gave earlier this year at the 2010 Basics conference. I wish every pastor—though not only pastors!—would seriously consider listening to these talks. (You can read some notes taken down here.)
One of the sections I enjoyed was when Dr. Ferguson began talking about the structure—or grammar—of the gospel. Natively, the gospel is a foreign language to us and we need to learn that the grammar of the gospel is shaped by the gospel itself. He noted how hard it is for us as Americans to learn Latin. The verbs go at the end end. We are a doing community and it’s hard for us to put the “doing” at the end. But the gospel teaches us to put our doing word at the end and Jesus’ doing word at the beginning—but our native tendency is to drag back the doing word and put it at the beginning, and then top that up with Jesus’ doing, just to make life a little better.
There’s a very clear grammar, he said, in the gospel. . . .
The Mood of the Gospel
We need to learn that the grammar of the gospel has its appropriate mood.
In our languages today we speak in the indicative mood and the imperative mood. The indicative mood is saying these are the things that are true. The imperative mood is saying these are things you need to do. And in the gospel, the structure of the grammar is always indicative gives rise to imperative. . . .
The Tense of the Gospel
There’s also a tense of the gospel: the present is to be rooted in the past. You need to go backward to what Christ has done in order to go forward in what you are to do. There is an emphasis of the already and the mopping-up operation of the not-yet.
The Prepositions of the Gospel
Do you remember how Paul uses prepositions in Galatians 2:20-21, where in a few words he summarizes the work of Christ:
The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me;
and therefore I am crucified with Christ;
nevertheless, I live, but not I; Christ lives in me.
In these three prepositions the apostle Paul has, in a sense, summarized the basic structure of our union with Christ.
Since we were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, he came as our substitute and representative—there is this sense in which we now know through faith that we were crucified with Christ. And the past that dominated us has been nailed to the cross; the dominion of sin that reigned over us has been broken—so that he has died for us and we have been crucified with him, and wonder of wonders there is this third dimension of our union with Christ: a mutual union, in which not only are we are said to be in Christ, but Christ the Lord of glory, in all the fullness of his role as our benefactor comes to dwell in the heart of the merest believer.
You can get the audio here.
HT: Tim Brister