|by James A. Fowler
In order to understand how "spirit-union allows for soul-rest," we must first reiterate the foundation of spiritual union with Christ. We must take the time to review the biblical premises of "spirit-union" with Christ, and carefully define what we do, and do not, mean by "spirit-union."
By "spirit-union" I am not referring to the objective union whereby humanity at large was represented in solidarity with the incarnation of Jesus Christ, when as the federal or representative head of the human race, the Son of God became united with mankind to redeem fallen man. The incarnational union of Christology is not the "spirit-union" I am speaking of.
"Spirit-union," as I am using the term, is not an objective attribution of "positional" truth of "identification" with the historical Jesus when He was crucified, buried, rose again, and ascended. There is truth indeed in the fact that "when He died, we died," that "when He was buried, we were buried," that "when He was raised, we rose with Him," and that "when He ascended, we ascended," but that objective historical union, often called "positional union" or "identification union," is not what I am referring to by the use of "spirit-union."
Nor am I referring to an objective participation in the benefits of Christ's redemptive work, whereby those who assent in faith to Christ's substitutional and vicarious death for their sins are legally and juridically united with Christ in their standing and status before God in heaven. In such an attributed union with Christ, Christians are declared righteous, as Christ's righteous action is imputed to them in forensic justification. Though theologically valid, this objective union is not the "spirit-union" I am referring to in this study.
By the term "spirit-union," I am referring to the subjective and internal union of the Spirit of Christ with the spirit of a receptive individual in spiritual regeneration. This has been called "regenerative union," "saving union," or "new-creation union." "If any person does not have the Spirit of Christ, he/she is none of His" (Rom. 8:9) - i.e. that person is not a Christian. This is the bottom-line of what constitutes Christianity. For, the one who is joined to the Lord Jesus Christ, receiving Him by faith, is "one spirit" with Him (I Cor. 6:17). That is the "spirit-union" I am referring to in this study. It is a personal, relational, and spiritual union that every genuine born-again believer participates in. If you are a Christian, you have spirit-union with the living Lord Jesus.
The internal, subjective "spirit-union" that I am speaking of is not a subjective state or condition that the Christian has to seek to attain or achieve by a litany of spiritual disciplines such as "centering prayer" or "spiritual direction," etc. "Spirit-union" is not an elevated state of consciousness or ecstasy whereby a Christian transcends earthly concerns and becomes "so heavenly-minded, they are of no earthly good." "Spirit-union" is not a metaphysical merging or commingling with God wherein a person is consubstantially and essentially deified in an organic union that constitutes the person as "no longer human."
"Spirit-union" is the spiritual condition of every Christian - every "Christ-one" who has been united with Christ, having accepted God's grace in His Son, Jesus Christ, by faith. Are you a Christian? Have you received the Spirit of Christ into your spirit? If so, then you have "spirit-union" with the Spirit of Christ, with the Spirit of God, with the Holy Spirit, i.e., with the triune God.
This does not mean that you are essentially, inherently, intrinsically Jesus Christ. That would be blasphemy. This is not an essential union of fused coalescence or absorbed equivalence. The "spirit-union" effected at regeneration is a personal, relational union, wherein the distinction of Christ and the Christian is maintained. That is why it has traditionally been referred to as a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ." But the idea of a "personal relationship" with Jesus has often been viewed as but a contractual connection that fails to adequately explain the "spirit-union" of the Christian with the Spirit of God.
One of the more important biblical verses that refers to "spirit-union" is I Cor. 6:17, where Paul states, "the one who is joined to the Lord is one spirit (with Him)." The context of the previous verse is a quotation from Genesis 2:24, which refers to God's intent in the marital union as a man and a woman become "one flesh" in marriage. The "one flesh" union of a husband and wife in marriage, and the "one spirit" union of Christ and the Christian are interrelational unions wherein neither party is diminished or denied in the union of the two, but there is a real integrated union.
What is Spiritual?
Since the word "spirituality" is such a buzzword in our society today, we should probably consider how this word relates to "spirit-union," as we are using the term. Religiously, "spirituality" refers to everything from conformity to moral standards, amassing doctrinal knowledge, faithful participation in church activities, speaking in tongues, ecstatic flights of mystical fancy, and so on. On the other hand, the world around us views almost anything as "spiritual" today. Enthusiasm is "spiritual," and so is coincidence, the unintelligible, environmentalism, evolution, drugs, music, art, running, sobriety, sensitivity, and myriad other things (even selfishness and sinfulness). What is the biblical understanding of "spiritual"? In
I Cor. 2:15
, Paul wrote, "He who is spiritual appraises all things." In the context, a "spiritual" person is contrasted to the "natural man" in the previous verse (2:14), who cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God. The "natural man" is the unregenerate person. The "spiritual person" is one who has received the Spirit of Christ and been regenerated. A few verses earlier (2:12) Paul had explained, "we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God." A "spiritual person" is one who has experienced "spirit-union" with the Spirit of Christ in spiritual regeneration. Such a spiritual condition of "spirit-union" is not an end in itself, but the character of the Spirit of God who lives within is to be expressed in psychological and physical behavior. That is why Paul went on to write, "I could not speak to you as to (those acting as) spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ" (I Cor. 3:1). And to the Galatians, Paul explained that those "who are spiritual" should restore one who is caught in a trespass with gentleness (6:1). Biblical spirituality involves the presence and function of the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the triune God in an individual. In other words, what we are calling "spirit-union" and "soul-rest."
Such a spiritual condition of "spirit-union" is predicated on the spiritual exchange that must have transpired in an individual's spirit at regeneration. We did not receive the "spirit of the world," but the "Spirit of God," Paul explained (I Cor. 2:12). To the Romans, Paul explained that "We have not received a spirit of slavery, but a spirit of adoption as sons" (Rom. 8:15). John explained that there is a radical difference between "the spirit of error" and "the spirit of truth" (I Jn. 4:6). In the fallen sons of disobedience there is a "spirit" that is working (Eph. 2:2), but Christians are those who have received into their spirit the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9), in a "spirit-union." A spiritual exchange has taken place.
Since we have mentioned a "spiritual exchange," perhaps this would be the proper place to address the correlation of what we are calling "spirit-union" with the familiar designation of "the exchanged life" that is so common in Christian circles today. I think many Christians are befuddled by the terminology of "exchanged life." They are asking questions like, "What is being exchanged for what? Where does this exchange take place? Is it a spiritual reality or a psychological reality? When does such an exchange transpire? Is it a singular point in time, or is it a progressive process? How do I facilitate this exchange? What do I have to do?" Many have discovered that there is much ambiguity in the "exchanged life" teaching. Part of the problem is due to an inadequate distinction of spirit and soul - of spiritual function and psychological function. Much of the "exchanged life" teaching focuses on the soulical or psychological, emphasizing the need to "exchange" my selfishness for Christ's action. In the process it often degenerates into another form of "how to" performance religion, encouraging surrender, brokenness, and "more faith" in order to enact this exchanged life behavioral expression. If I were to use "exchanged life" terminology, and I cautiously try to avoid such, I would be referring to the spiritual reality of the spiritual exchange that happens at spiritual regeneration, when an individual exchanges spiritual death for spiritual life. When a person receives Jesus Christ by faith, the spiritual exchange takes place, and the Christian has "spirit-union" with the Lord. The living Lord Jesus explained to Saul on the road to Damascus that he would send him to the Gentiles to convert them "from darkness to light, and from the dominion of Satan to God" (Acts 26:18). Beyond that exchange of spirit, wherein we are no longer "deriving from the being" of the one spirit (Greek exousia), but deriving from the Spirit of God, there is no additional "exchange" required. Henceforth, the Christian participates in the overcoming activity of the Spirit of Christ, as the "positive swallows up the negative," and the grace of God facilitates the behavioral expression of His own character in our behavior.
The spiritual exchange that allows for "spirit-union" with the Spirit of Christ is also an exchange of spiritual nature. The humanistic premises of the world's philosophies posit that man has an intrinsic "human nature," and then go on to argue whether that nature is essentially good or evil. Biblical Christian teaching does not allow for such human essentialism, but recognizes that God created man as a derivative creature who derives his nature and character from one spirit or the other, God or Satan. Paul explained to the Ephesians that in their unregenerate state they "were by nature, children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3). The unregenerate "sons of disobedience" derive their evil expressions of selfish sinfulness from the "god of this world" (II Cor. 4:4), for the "whole world lies in the evil one" (I Jn. 5:19). But in the spiritual exchange from "Satan to God" (Acts 26:18), the Christian becomes "a partaker of the divine nature" (II Pet. 1:4), in "spirit-union" with the Trinity. The nature of a man is the nature of the spiritual personage that indwells him/her. Ours is a derived nature. But the humanistic premises of an intrinsic human nature are so pervasive in Western thinking, that evangelical Christian thinkers accept the premise and explain that the Christian has "two natures," a so-called human nature, sin nature, Adam nature, fallen nature, flesh nature, self-nature, or old nature, as well as the divine nature of Christ. These concepts of evangelical humanism explain that the Christian has "two natures," an "old nature" and a "new nature" (both phrases are not biblical), creating a schizophrenic duality that disallows Christians from understanding their "spirit-union" and who they are in Christ. Even some of the most popular versions of the New Testament have interpolated their interpretations of evangelical humanism into the text of scripture, mistranslating the Greek word for "flesh" (sarx) as "old nature" or "old sinful nature," etc. It is tragic how modern evangelicalism has obscured Christian teaching, and denied the realities of "spirit-union."
The exchange that allows for "spirit-union" with Christ is an exchange from spiritual death to eternal spiritual life. This "eternal life" that we receive in Jesus Christ is not some "thing" that we possess; rather, "eternal life" is a Person, Jesus Christ, with Whom we have spirit-union. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life" (Jn. 11:25); "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn. 14:6). "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life" (I Jn. 5:12). In "spirit-union" with Christ we have "passed out of death into life" (I Jn. 3:14), for "Christ lives in us" (Gal. 2:20), and "Christ is our life" (Col. 3:4). This spirit-union of eternal life in Christ is also a partaking of immortality. Immortality is not something we are waiting to participate in after physical death. "God alone possesses immortality" (I Tim. 6:16), but He has "abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (II Tim. 1:10). Our spirits and souls are not essentially immortal as evangelical humanism indicates, but we derive immortality and eternal life from the presence of Jesus in "spirit-union."
The Christian in "spirit-union" has exchanged darkness for light. The risen Lord Jesus told Saul that his mission was to "convert people from darkness to light" (Acts 26:18). To the Colossian Christians, Paul wrote, "He (Jesus) delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Col. 1:13). "Called out of darkness into His marvelous light" (II Pet. 2:9), Christians are "saints in light" (Col. 1:12), "sons of light" (I Thess. 5:5), and "children of light" (Eph. 5:8), for "the life was the light of men" (Jn. 1:4).
Spirit-union is such an integral and intimate union that the identity of the Christian is based on the presence of Jesus Christ. Spirit-union is an identity-union. The deepest sense of any person's identity is in the realm of the spirit. A Christian is a Christ-one, identified by the presence of Jesus Christ Who forms the basis of his/her identity. It is of utmost importance that a Christian understand their spiritual identity, accepting and affirming "who they are in Christ" - their derived spiritual identity based on their spirit-union with Christ. If we do not know who we are, then we will never be able to behave like who we've become.
Christians are "sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26). We are "children of God" (I Jn. 3:1,2) - no longer "children of the devil," but "children of God" (I Jn. 3:10), for "as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). Christians are "the people of God" (I Pet. 2:10), intended to "rest" (Heb. 4:9) as God's own possession (Titus 2:14). Christians constitute the new "Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16; cf. Rom. 9:6). We are "members of God's household" (Eph. 2:19), and "citizens of heaven" (Phil. 3:20). Every Christian is a "priest" (I Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6) with access into the Holy of Holies of God's presence (Heb. 10:19). We are "kings" (I Pet. 2:9), who "reign in life through Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:17). Though our spiritual identity was once that of "sinners" (Rom. 5:19), we are now "saints" (Rom. 8:27; Eph. 1:18; 4:12), having a derived identity as "holy ones" by the presence of the "Holy One" (Acts 3:14; I Jn. 2:1), Jesus Christ, with Whom we have spirit-union.
Whereas we were once "ungodly" (Rom. 5:6), we are now identified as "godly" (II Pet. 2:9). Whereas we were once "excluded from the life of God" (Eph. 4:18) and "separate from Christ" (Eph. 2:12), we are now the "chosen ones" of God (Eph. 1:4; Col.3:12), who have been "reconciled to God" (Rom. 5:10,11) and have been "accepted to the glory of God" (Rom. 15:7). Whereas we were once "unrighteous" (I Cor. 6:9), we have now been "made righteous" (Rom. 5:19), for we have been "created in righteousness" (Eph. 4:24), and have "become the righteousness of God in Christ" (II Cor. 5:21), as the "Righteous One" (Acts 7:52; 22:14), Jesus Christ, has become the basis of who we are. We have been made "holy, and blameless and beyond reproach" (Col. 1:22). Christians are even identified as "perfect" (Phil. 3:15; Heb. 12:23) in spiritual condition, because the Perfect One, Jesus Christ, dwells within their spirit in spirit-union.
Everything has become "new" for the Christian who is in spirit-union with Christ. The prophet Ezekiel prophesied about the great renewal that would be enacted in Christ when he spoke for God, saying, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you" (Ezek. 36:26). When the Christian receives Christ in regeneration, this "new heart" and "new spirit" become a spiritual reality within. This is not a mechanical replacement whereby we receive a new heart-part, nor is it a heart transplant. Rather, in the "inner man" (II Cor. 4:16) of our spiritual and psychological function we receive the "newness of life" (Rom. 6:4) of the presence and function of Jesus Christ. Jeremiah's comment that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jere. 17:9) is no longer true for a Christian. The Spirit of Christ indwells our hearts (Eph. 3:17), and this constitutes a "new heart" wherein "God has written His laws upon our hearts" (Heb. 8:10; 10:16). "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away and new things have come" (II Cor. 5:17). By spirit-union with Christ, everything has become new spiritually in the Christian. We are a "new creation" (Gal. 6:15). We are a "new man" (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). The "old man" that we were in our unregenerate state has been crucified (Rom. 6:6) and put off (Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9), and we are a "new man" in Christ. We are not a schizophrenic "old man" and "new man" at the same time, as popular evangelical humanism has often suggested, but the "old man" has been exchanged for the "new man," the completely new identity we have "in Christ."
Perhaps the most frequent phrase used in the New Testament to refer to our spirit-union is the little phrase, "in Christ," and its variant forms of "in Christ Jesus," "in Jesus Christ," "in the Lord Jesus Christ," and "in Him," etc. "By His (God's) doing you are in Christ Jesus (I Cor. 1:30)," Paul writes. "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature" (II Cor. 5:17). Whenever we see that phrase it is quite legitimate to read it as "in union with Christ." For example, "Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (in union with Christ Jesus)" (Rom. 6:11). And later in the same chapter, "The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (in union with Christ Jesus our Lord)" (Rom. 6:23). The phrase "in the Spirit" can also refer to the spirit-union with the Spirit of Christ.
Spirit-union is brought into being by the presence of the entire Trinity within us. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have come to dwell and take up residence in our spirit. When we become "partakers of the divine nature" (II Pet. 1:4), we become partakers of God the Father, "partakers of Christ" (Heb. 3:14), and "partakers of the Holy Spirit" (Heb. 6:4). Jesus explained to the disciples in the upper room discourse, "If anyone loves Me, We (My Father and I) will come and make Our abode with him" (John. 14:23). In his first epistle, John writes, "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in Him and he in God (in union with God)" (I John 4:15,16). It is the apostle Paul who is so clear about Christ indwelling us. This is the mystery of the gospel, Paul states, "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20), Paul tells the Galatians. Paul asked the Corinthians, incredulously, "Do you not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you - unless indeed you fail the test?" (II Cor. 13:5). Likewise the Holy Spirit dwells in us (II Tim. 1:14). "God gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge" (II Cor. 1:22), and has "sent the Spirit into our hearts, crying, 'Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:6). Spirit-union is established by the presence of the entire Trinity.
Since God dwells in us in Spirit-form, the scriptures employ numerous explanations of how the spirit-union is established and functions. We must be "born of the Spirit" (John 3:5,8), Jesus told Nicodemus. We receive the "gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38), Peter explained in the first sermon of the church. We are "sealed in the Spirit" (Eph. 4:30; II Cor. 1:22); "sealed in Him (in union with Christ) with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph. 1:13), as God's own possession. Every Christian is "baptized in the Spirit" (I Cor. 12:13) when our spirits are overwhelmed by the Spirit of Christ, and we become part of the one Body, the Church. Every Christian has an "anointing of the Spirit" (I Jn. 2:20,27), whereby the Spirit of God becomes our inner teacher. To the Romans, Paul explained, "All who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). Notice, he does not say, "Those who are following the leading of the Spirit are sons of God." Nor does he say, "Those who seek the leading of the Spirit are sons of God." No, he says that every Christian, every "son of God," has the inner leading and direction of the Spirit of God - whether, or not, they seek or follow that leading.
In like manner, every Christian has an inner vision, whereby with "the eyes of their heart" (Eph. 1:18) they can "look at the things which are not seen, which are eternal" (II Cor. 4:18), and "behold the glory of God" (II Cor. 3:18). In spirit-union, Christians have an inner, spiritual hearing to "hear what the Spirit is saying" (Rev. 2:7,11). Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice" (John 10:3,4,16,27). "If anyone has an ear, let him hear" (Rev. 13:9) and listen to what God is saying. It might even be noted that we have an inner taste whereby we can "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps. 34:8).
Those who participate in spirit-union with God often fail to appreciate and tune-in to the intuitive spiritual knowledge that the presence of God provides. Paul explained that "the natural man does not understand spiritual things, but he that is spiritual (i.e., has spirit-union) appraises all things" (I Cor. 2:14,15). This inner knowing is both an intuitive knowledge and an intimate relational knowledge. "We know (spiritual intuition) that we have come to know (spiritual intimacy of relationship) Him" (I John 2:3). To the Corinthians, Paul wrote, "We have received the Spirit of God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God" (I Cor. 2:12). We are "able to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth (of God's ways), and to know the love of Christ which surpasses (natural) knowledge" (Eph. 3:18,19). Beyond natural logic and reasoning, there is the Theo-logic whereby we can apprehend the supernatural and unseen intents of God. By natural reasoning, God and His ways are "past finding out" (Rom. 11:33), but the Christian in spirit-union with God can "know God's ways" (Heb. 3:10), "know the grace of God" (II Cor. 8:9), "know that he has the anointing of the Spirit" (I John 2:20), "know that he has passed out of death into life" (I John 3:14), "know that he has eternal life" (I John 5:13), and, in fact, "know all things" (Jude 1:5) that God wants him/her to know. Paul exhorted the Philippians to let their "love (God's love) abound in real knowledge and spiritual discernment" (Phil. 1:9), able to "discern good and evil" (Heb. 5:14). "The Son of God has come and given us understanding" (I John 5:20), John wrote. And Paul prayed that the Colossians might "be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Col. 1:9). To Timothy, he explained, "the Lord will give you understanding in everything" (II Tim. 2:7). God reveals things to the Christian with whom He has spirit-union. Paul told the Philippians, "Have this attitude, and if you have a different attitude, God will reveal it to you" (Phil. 3:15). "May God grant you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him" (Eph. 1:17), he prayed for the Ephesians. This spiritual revealing of God's character, God's ways, and God's direction cannot be "taught" by didactic methods; it must be "caught" in the spiritual perception and awareness of "spirit-union" with God. The Psalmist reported, "My inner man instructs me in the night" (Ps. 16:7). Much of evangelical religion is afraid of this intuitive spiritual direction, and seeks to limit revelation to the knowledge and understanding that can be drawn from study of the Bible, denying the inner instruction and direction of the Spirit of God.
Mind of Christ
What does Paul mean when he writes, "We have the mind of Christ" (I Cor. 2:16)? One young man with whom I spoke adamantly reacted, saying, "I don't see how a Christian can say that." I began with the basic foundation, and asked, "Are you a Christian?" He replied, "Yes." I continued, "Did Christ come into your spirit when you became a Christian?" Again he responded, "Yes." Then I asked, "Do you think that Jesus came into you without His mind? Did He leave it up in heaven?" "No," he said sheepishly. "Then you have the mind of Christ," I concluded. But the "mind of Christ" is more than just a static presence, for the "mind of Christ" within is dynamically conveying the divine intents via spiritual revelation. That is why Paul admonishes, "Let this mind be in you, which was in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5), encouraging the "renewing of the mind" (Rom. 12:2: Eph. 4:23) for the development of established attitudes in the soul.
Love of God
Every Christian, in "spirit-union" with Christ, not only has the "mind of Christ," but he also has the "love of God" within his spirit. To the Romans, Paul stated, "The love of God has been poured out within our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Rom. 5:5). "God is love" (I John 4:8,16), so when He dwells within us in spirit-union, His love is present and active within us. The "love of Christ compels us" (II Cor. 5:14), and the "love of the Spirit" (Rom. 15:30) prompts us to express God's love for others. Whereas the unregenerate "want to do the desires of their father, the devil" (John 8:44), those in spirit-union with God have an inner "desire for goodness" (II Thess. 1:11), and a "desire to live godly in (union with) Christ Jesus" (II Tim. 3:12).
Will of God
Paul explained to Timothy that those who are not Christians are under "the snare of the devil, being held captive to do his will" (II Tim. 2:26). Christians, on the other hand, have the will of God within them. God did not come into us without His will, and He is "at work in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). In spirit-union, we can "understand what the will of the Lord is" (Eph. 5:17), and "do the will of God from the heart" (Eph. 6:6) by the dynamic of His grace. The "will of God" is not something exterior to the Christian that we must seek to discover and find, and then aim at it as if it were the bulls-eye of a target. No, we have the "will of God" within us, and the "will of God" is always the life and character of Jesus lived out as us and through us to the glory of God.
Every Christian has "the mind of Christ," "the desires of God," and "the will of God" granted to them in spirit-union. They can, and will, intuitively know what God wants to be and do in them. This is the reason why some teachers attribute mind, desires, will, and intuition to the spiritual function of man, but this must not be to the exclusion of mental, emotional and volitional capabilities in the psychological function of man also (as will be addressed later).
Lordship of Christ
It is not possible to have spirit-union without recognizing the Lordship of Jesus Christ. When we receive the Trinity into our spirit at regeneration, we receive the Lord God. Some have suggested that Jesus can be received as one's personal Savior, and later accepted as Lord. This is impossible, for Jesus is both Savior and Lord, and to receive Him is to receive Him for all that He is. He cannot be dissected and received partially. The initial confession of the early Christians was a verbal confession that "Jesus Christ is Lord" (Rom. 10:9; Phil. 2:11) by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:3). Those who think that they can agree that "Jesus is Lord," and disallow Him to "lord it over them," have no understanding of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus has been given "all authority in heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28:18), and when we are converted "from the authority of Satan to the authority of God" (Acts 26:18), we are agreeing to submit to the "one Lord, Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 8:6). Watchman Nee referred to the indwelling Jesus as "Resident Boss." In spirit-union, we "sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts" (I Peter 3:15).
When Christ comes to dwell in a Christian, He comes complete with the divine character of God, for His character cannot be detached from His Being. Paul describes the divine character as the "fruit of the Spirit" which is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and godly control of the self" (Gal. 5:22,23). These are not merely external behavioral traits or psychological attitudes, but they are the divine character that we receive when the triune God indwells us in spirit-union. For a Christian to complain that he/she lacks "patience" or "gentleness" or any other feature of divine character, and then to seek to develop such through educational instruction or psychological procedures, is to deny all that we have received in spirit-union. The inner spiritual character that is ours by the presence of God in spirit-union is intended to be transformed into attitudes in the soul and behavioral expression in the body.
Even the charismata, the so-called "spiritual gifts," are all ours in spirit-union. These are but the grace-expressions or the Spirit-actions of the ministry of Christ. Christ enters into us in spirit-union with all the potentiality of His ministry within His Body, the Church. The spiritual gifts are not trophies of spirituality, nor are they power-toys with which Christians perform their "ministries." When the living Christ comes into each Christian, He comes complete with all of His abilities to minister and serve. "We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us" (Rom. 12:8), and "to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (I Cor. 12:7). In spirit-union Christ within us possesses and conveys all of His intended action and ministry through us.
Complete in Christ
In spirit-union we are "complete in Christ" (Col. 2:10), lacking nothing spiritually. "All has become new" (II Cor. 5:17), and we have received everything God has to give. As one rather uneducated rural preacher expressed it, "You got all there is to get when you got Jesus. You ain't gonna get no more, 'cause there ain't no more to get." Paul advised the Corinthian Christians, "all things belong to you; whether things present or things to come, all things belong to you" (I Cor. 2:20,21). To the Ephesians, Paul exclaimed, "God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 1:3). Peter concurred, "God has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence" (II Peter 1:3).
Jesus said, "I came that you might have life, and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). In spirit-union with Christ we have "abundant life." "He is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we could ask or think, according to the power that works within us" (Eph. 3:20). Union-life is grace life. "God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed" (II Cor. 9:8). "My grace is sufficient for you" (II Cor. 12:9), God told Paul. In union with Christ we participate in the "supplied life," living and ministering by "the strength which God supplies" (I Peter 4:11). "Not that we are adequate in ourselves, to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy/sufficiency is from God" (II Cor. 3:5). Christ within is "the power of God" (I Cor. 1:24), and we are "strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man" (Eph. 3:16); "strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience" (Col. 1:11). "We have this treasure (Jesus Christ) in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves" (II Cor. 4:7). That is why Paul could say, "I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13).
How good can it get? Can it get any better than that? Impossible!
Yet, one young lady angrily lashed out, "It's too good to be true. I don't believe it." That is her right, but she has a very inadequate view of God and His grace in Jesus Christ. Others have responded, "It sounds too subjective, too mystical. Are you sure you aren't spiritualizing? Is this some form of triumphalism or perfectionism?" Some have responded, "I heard a preacher say that these were just 'positional truths' that were true from God's position or perspective, but they couldn't be considered 'actually true,' or they would lead to passivism." No, these are actual truths of our spirit-union with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, abundantly documented in the new covenant scriptures. They are the essence of what it means to be a Christian. Until we understand who we are in Christ (our spiritual identity) and all we have in Christ (our spiritual provision or supply), we will never begin to behave like who we have become in accord with all we've been given by God's grace.
- Fowler, James A., Union with Christ. Fallbrook: CIY Publishing. 2003.
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- Horton, Michael, ed., The Agony of Deceit. Chicago: Moody Press. 1990. Chapter Four, "Scripture Twisting" by Henry Krabbendam. Pg. 77.
- Fowler, James A., Man As God Intended. Fallbrook: CIY Publishing. 1998. Chapter Two, "The Constitution of Man."
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- Stone, Dan & Smith, Greg, The Rest of the Gospel: When the Partial Gospel Has Worn You Out. Dallas: One Press. 2000.
- Upham, Thomas C., A Treastise on Divine Union, Designed to Point out Some of the Intimate Relations Between God and Man in the Higher Forms of Religious Experience. Boston: Henry V. Degen. 1857.
- Nee, Watchman, The Normal Christian Life. Fort Washington: Christian Literature Crusade. 1973.
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- Descartes, Rene, Passions of the Soul. Hacket Pub. Co. 1989.
- Luther, Martin, The Bondage of the Will. Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell. 1996.
- Luther, Martin, "On Christian Freedom," (1520).
©2004 by James A. Fowler. All rights reserved.
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