Category Archives: Union with Christ

“The Old Testament is the book of Christ” by Herman Ridderbos

“Paul proclaims Christ as the fulfillment of the promise of God to Abraham, as the seed in which all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Gal. 3:8, 16, 29), the eschatological bringer of salvation whose all-embracing significance must be understood in the light of prophecy (Rom. 15:9-12), the fulfillment of God’s redemptive counsel concerning the whole world and its future.

This redemptive-historical significance of Paul’s Christology also comes to light in the pronouncements, so characteristic of him, concerning Christ as the revelation of the mystery.

Here the past is not described only as a time of darkness and ignorance, but rather as the preparation of the work of God in the course of the centuries.

The grace that has now been revealed ‘was given in Christ Jesus long ages ago’ (2 Tim. 1:9), in the purpose and promise of God and in their initial realization; it was promised by God who cannot lie, before times eternal (Tit. 1:2).

Therefore the mystery that has been revealed with the advent of Christ must also be made known and understood ‘by means of the prophetic writings’ (Rom. 16:26).

The nature of that which has taken place in Christ becomes clear in the light of the fulfilling action of God how much the Old Testament is the book of Christ (2 Cor. 3:14; 1 Cor. 10:4; Gal. 3:16).

For this reason one of the leading motifs of Paul’s preaching is that his gospel is according to the Scriptures (Rom. 1:17; 3:28; cf. Rom. 4; Gal. 3:6ff; Gal. 4:21ff; 1 Cor. 1-10; Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 9:10; 2 Tim. 3:16).

However this use of the Old Testament by Paul is further to be judged in detail, a most basic conception of Christ’s advent and work lies at the root of this whole appeal and use, that of the divine drama being realized and fulfilled in His advent and work; this fulfillment was not only foretold by the prophets, but signifies the execution of the divine plan of salvation that He purposed to Himself with respect to the course of the ages and the end of the times (Eph. 1:9, 10; 3:11).

This is the fundamental redemptive-historical and all-embracing character of Paul’s preaching of Christ.”

–Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966/1975), 51.

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“Assure yourself that your God in Christ will never unson you” by Edward Fisher

“Whensoever your conscience shall tell you, that you have broken any of the Ten Commandments, do not conceive that the Lord looks upon you as an angry Judge, armed with justice against you.

Much less do you fear that He will execute His justice upon you, according to the penalty of that covenant, in unjustifying of you, or depriving you of your heavenly inheritance, and giving you your portion in hell fire.

No, assure yourself that your God in Christ will never unson you, nor unspouse you: no, nor yet, as touching your justification and eternal salvation, will He love you ever a whit the less, though you commit ever so many or great sins.

For this is a certain truth, that as no good either in you, or done by you, did move Him to justify you, and give you eternal life, so no evil in you, or done by you, can move Him to take it away from you, being once given.

And therefore believe it whilst you live, that as the Lord first loved you freely, so will He hereafter ‘heal your backslidings, and still love you freely,’ (Hos. 14:4).

Yea, ‘He will love you unto the end,’ (John 13:1).”

–Edward Fisher, The Marrow of Modern Divinity, as quoted in Thomas Boston, The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: An Explication of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism, ed. Samuel M‘Millan, vol. 7 (Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1850), 7: 353–354.

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“Grace is the beginning of glory” by Thomas Manton

“Grace is the beginning of glory, and glory is but grace perfected.

Grace is glory in the bud, and moulding, and making; for when the apostle would express our whole conformity to Christ, he only expresseth it thus, ‘We are changed into his image from glory to glory,’ (2 Cor 3:18), that is, from one degree of grace to another.

It is called glory, because the progress of holiness never ceaseth till it comes to the perfection of glory and life eternal. The first degree of grace is glory begun, and the final consummation is glory perfected.

All the degrees of our conformity to Christ are so called. It is a bud of that sinless, pure, immaculate estate which shall be without spot and wrinkle; the seed of that perfect holiness which shall be bestowed upon us hereafter.

Thus the spiritual life is described in its whole flux; it begins in grace, and ends in glory.

See the golden chain: Rom. 8:30, ‘Whom he hath called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.’

There is no mention of sanctification, for that is included in glory.

Grace is but young glory, and differs from glory as an infant doth from a man; therefore by degrees the Lord will have you enter upon your everlasting inheritance.”

–Thomas Manton, The Works of Thomas Manton, Vol. 13 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1870/2020), 13: 331.

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“The extraordinary kindness of Christ” by Thomas Manton

“I will pay my portion and share of thanks and respect. But this cannot be applied to this extraordinary kindness of Christ, for every man is indebted for the whole, not every man for a part of redemption.

God’s love to every one is infinite, and He hath paid an infinite price for thee, purchased an infinite happiness to thee.

His love to thee was without measure and bounds, so must thy thankfulness be to Him without stint and limit.

Though Christ died for others as well as thee, yet thou art bound to love Him no less than if it had been for thee alone.

He shed His whole blood for thee, and every drop was poured out for thy sake.”

–Thomas Manton, The Works of Thomas Manton, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1870/2020), 2: 296–297.

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“Union with Christ is the greatest and most glorious grace that we can be made partakers of in this world” by John Owen

“Union with Christ is the greatest, most honourable, and glorious of all graces that we are made partakers of. It is called ‘glory,’ (2 Cor. 3:18).

The greatest humiliation of the Son of God consisted in His taking upon Him of our nature, (Heb. 2:8-9).

And this was ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich,’—rich in the eternal glory, the glory that He had with the Father before the world was, (John 17:5), as being in Himself ‘God over all, blessed for ever,’ (Rom. 9:5),— ‘for our sakes He became poor,’ (2 Cor. 8:9), by taking on Him that nature which is poor in itself, infinitely distanced from Him, and exposed unto all misery.

All which our apostle fully expresseth, (Phil. 2:5–7), ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.’

There was indeed great grace and condescension in all that He did and humbled Himself unto in that nature, as it follows in that place, ‘And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,’ (Phil. 2:8).

But His assumption of the nature itself was that whereby most signally ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσε, He ’emptied’ and ‘humbled Himself, and made Himself of no reputation.’

On this all that followed did ensue, and on this it did depend. From hence all His actings and sufferings in that nature received their dignity and efficacy.

All, I say, that Christ, as our mediator, did and underwent in our nature, had its worth, merit, use, and prevalency from His first condescension in taking our nature upon Him; for from thence it was that whatever He so did or suffered, it was the doing and suffering of the Son of God.

And, on the contrary, our grace of union with Christ, our participation of Him and His nature, is our highest exaltation, the greatest and most glorious grace that we can be made partakers of in this world.

He became poor for our sakes, by a participation of our nature, that we through His poverty may be rich in a participation of His, (2 Cor. 8:9). And this is that which gives worth and excellency unto all that we may be afterwards intrusted with.

The grace and privileges of believers are very great and excellent, but yet they are such as do belong unto them that are made partakers of Christ, such as are due to the quickening and adorning of all the members of His body; as all privileges of marriage, after marriage contracted, arise from and follow that contract.

For being once made co-heirs with Christ, we are made heirs of God, and have a right to the whole inheritance.

And, indeed, what greater glory or dignity can a poor sinner be exalted unto, than to be thus intimately and indissolubly united unto the Son of God, the perfection whereof is the glory which we hope and wait for, (John 17:22-23)?

Saith David, in an earthly, temporary concern, ‘What am I, and what is my father’s family, that I should be son-in-law unto the king, being a poor man, and lightly esteemed?’ (1 Samuel 18:23)

How much more may a sinner say, ‘What am I, poor, sinful dust and ashes, one that deserves to be lightly esteemed by the whole creation of God, that I should be thus united unto the Son of God, and thereby become His son by adoption!’

This is honour and glory unparalleled. And all the grace that ensues receives its worth, its dignity, and use from hence.

Therefore are the graces and the works of believers excellent, because they are the graces and works of them that are united unto.”

–John Owen, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Volume 4, The Works of John Owen (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1667/1854), 4: 148–149.

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“Is this not a joyful life—a heaven upon earth—to have such a God as your God?” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“When the soul is privileged to reflect upon God as his God in Jesus Christ, such a soul will be conscious of the righteousness of God. He will magnify and delight in this righteousness no less than in God’s goodness and love.

He will perceive in this attribute only light, purity, and extraordinary glory. Such a soul rejoices the more in this righteousness, since by virtue of the merits of Christ it is no longer against him unto destruction, but rather for his help and salvation, and to the damnation of the ungodly.

The soul beholding God’s goodness and all-sufficiency, and tasting the power of these is so fully satisfied with this that all the goodness of the creature vanishes. It no longer has any appeal to him.

He can do without it and confesses with Asaph, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee … but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” (Psa. 73:25–26).

The soul, irradiated by the love of God and ignited with reciprocal love, loses itself in this love and is silent in response to it. He stands in amazement of this love, and finds so much in it that all creature-love loses its appeal.

He no longer perceives any desirability in the creature except where he perceives something of God in it. Therefore he no longer covets the love of others and is readily weaned from all that appears to be desirable upon earth.

Viewing the holiness of God, the soul, not able to endure its brilliant splendor, covers her countenance, exclaiming with the angels, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!” He thus becomes enamored with this holiness and desires to be holy as He is holy who has called him.

The soul perceives the sovereignty of the holy will of God, exalting, esteeming, and approving it as such. He rejoices in the full accomplishment of this will relative to all creatures as well as himself.

He submits himself to this will which sweetens and makes all things well. He yields his own will to be swallowed up in the will of God. The Lord’s will is his will both in what he endures and does, and he is thus ready to perform all that is according to God’s will and is pleasing to Him.

Contemplating the magnificence and glory of God, the dignity and glory of all creatures vanish and are in comparison considered to be lowly, insignificant, and contemptible. He neither desires the splendor and glory of the world for himself, nor is he intimidated by the dignity of others who might cause him to act contrary to the will of His God.

In that aspect he deems the dignified and honorable equal to the most insignificant and contemptible even though he will fully subject himself to all whom God has placed over him because God wills it. Rather, he bows in all humility before God the most High, rendering Him honor and glory. His heart and tongue are prepared and ready to speak of the honor and glory of His majesty.

Viewing the omnipotence of God in itself as well as in its manifestation in all creatures, the power of creatures which either is exercised for or against him vanishes. He will neither rely upon nor fear it, but dwelling in the secret place of the most High he abides under the shadow of the Almighty. In that shadow he rejoices over all his enemies, enjoys safety without fear, and is confident.

In contemplating the multifacetted and unsearchable wisdom of God as it is manifested in all His works both in the realm of nature and of grace, he loses his own wisdom, considering it to be but foolishness, as well as all esteem for the wisdom of friend and enemy.

Such a soul is quiet and satisfied with the all-wise government of God, be it in relation to the whole world, the church, his country of residence, times of peace and war, or its effect upon him and his loved ones. He yields in everything to the wisdom of God who knows both time and manner, even though the soul has no prior realization or perception thereof.

The soul, viewing the infallible truth and faithfulness of God, refuses to rely upon human promises. They neither can cause him to rejoice nor can human threatenings terrify him, for he is aware of human mutability.

However, He knows the Lord to be a God of truth who keepeth truth forever. He knows the promises and believes them, being so convinced of their certainty as if they were already fulfilled. He therefore rests in them and has a joyful hope in them.

Behold, is this not a joyful life—a heaven upon earth—to have such a God as your God who promotes both your welfare and your salvation? Can there be sorrow in such a soul?

Does not He who has a God as the God of joy and gladness have every reason to experience immediate comfort? Does not such a walk with God cause the soul to manifest utmost meekness and humility, being cognizant of his own insignificance?

This engenders in the soul a circumspect and unwavering spiritual frame, a quiet and humble submission in all things, and a fearless valor and courage in the performance of his duties, even when the Lord calls to a duty which is extraordinary in nature.

There is a delighting in that which he may have done for the Lord, submissively leaving the outcome to be determined by His government. Such a spiritual frame engenders genuine holiness.

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).”

–Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Volume 1 (God, Man, and Christ), Ed. Joel Beeke, Trans. Bartel Elshout (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1994), 1: 134-137.

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“All His footsteps were nothing but mercy” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“You who are godly, ‘Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy’ (Hos. 10:12); ‘Keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually’ (Hos. 12:6). In order to stir you up more to this end, give heed to the following matters with an obedient heart.

First, precepts teach, but examples attract.

Therefore, observe those compassionate persons who have gone before you, and have left you an example. The most perfect example is the Lord Jesus, whom you ought to follow joyfully and willingly, since He is altogether lovely to you.

Read only the history of His life, the gospels, and you will perceive that all His footsteps were nothing but mercy. Time and again you will read: “Jesus being moved with compassion…”

He was not merely moved, however, but His compassion culminated in deeds. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, gave the oppressed their dead again, and traversed the entire country doing good.

In doing so He has left us an example, so that we would follow in His footsteps. Therefore, out of love for Him, conduct yourself as He did. Your name “Christian” also obligates you to this.

Furthermore, add to this the example of Job. Who can read about his compassion without being moved to follow his example? “I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor” (Job 29:15-16); “If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof; (for from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my mother‟s womb;) if I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering; if his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep” (Job 31:16-20). That was exemplary.

Add to the example of this man the example of a compassionate woman: Tabitha or Dorcas. Observe the following of her: “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did … and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them” (Acts 9:36, 39).

She was a mother to the poor! She did not occasionally do a good deed, but rather she was full of, and overflowing with, good works and alms (gifts which are the manifestation of compassion). The Greek word ἐλεημοσυνῶν (elémosúne) is a composite word and a derivative of ἐλεέω (eleéo), which means to have compassion.

Thus, she did not only give, but rather she gave, being moved with compassion. First the heart was moved, and the heart thus moved, in turn moved her hand. She did not only buy material from which she made clothing, but her benevolent love was so great that it was her delight to do the sewing herself and to dress the widows with the work of her own hands.”

—Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, ed. Joel R. Beeke, trans. Bartel Elshout, vol. 4: Ethics and Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1995), 4: 122.

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