It has been argued that nothing is more important to understanding the Christian life than the doctrine of union with Christ. The phrase “in Christ” appears 89 times in the New Testament, and includes some of my favorite verses in all of Scripture.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2Co 5:17 ESV)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (Eph 1:3 ESV)
You’ll also see the phrase “in him” used in the New Testament to refer to union with Christ (91 times):
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (Joh 1:4 ESV)
In fact, union with Christ is key in every aspect of our salvation from election (Eph 1:4) to justification (Gal 2:16) to glorification (Rom 8:39). It’s all because we’re united to Christ.
And yet, very little has been written on the subject.
I’ll give you a vignette that gives you a taste of the book.
Two Songs in our Heads
Rankin says we often encounter two paths—or songs—in the Christian life. One is “the way of extravagant grace” (aka “just believe”), and the other is “the way of radical discipleship” (aka “just obey”). I think that our wiring, our circumstances, and our teachers predispose us to one path or the other (do you know where you lean?), and at the same time we can move between them with relative ease. And yet, these two songs are often pitted against each other—one song gets turned up and drowns out the other.
But these two songs, Rankin says, are designed to be played in stereo in the Christian life. Both “Grace” and “Demand” should be turned up to full volume—at the same time. How does that happen? Rankin’s answer: Union with Christ.
He goes on to say, “Not only is union with Christ in the Bible, but I believe that it’s the best lens through which to read the whole Bible.” Why? Because “Union with Christ is the doorway to communion with God.” And communion with God—how it was created, lost, regained, and one day will be perfected—is the central story of the Bible.
In union with Christ, the way of extravagant grace and the way of radical discipleship meet. Union with Christ helps us read the Bible, understand communion with God, and sing the full song of the Christian life.
And so I commend Rankin Wilbourne’s book to you. It’s accessible and deep, easy and challenging, insightful and honest. If you’re only reading one book in 2019 on the Christian life, I’d recommend Union with Christ.