The Infinite Comforts of Union with Christ

The Christian’s union with Christ is one of the most beautiful—and most neglected—doctrines of the Christian faith. Within this doctrine, there are countless comforts afforded to the Christian, such as the fact that Christ abides within us, and we abide within Him (John 15:5). Alongside these comforts are countless other exhortations to pursue holiness and to glorify God, putting sin to death, because we are now the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20). The one who understands these things will find a true and lasting joy.  Christians ought not to continue in loneliness when they recognize the truth that Christ is with them and has promised to remain with them. Indeed, if we be in Christ, and Christ is the Lord of all, then the benefits of belonging to Christ are truly infinite.

Richard Sibbes, recognizing the infinite benefits and comforts of union with Christ, wrote in his work A Heavenly Conference:

You shall see the extent of the comforts further by retail, as it were. If God be ours, then all is ours too. What be they? The Scripture telleth you, and I should spend too much time in unfolding of them.

  1. If God be ours, his wisdom must needs be ours, to find out ways to do us good; for his infinite wisdom hath found out a way in Christ, by satisfaction of his justice, to bring us to heaven. He can make us go beyond all the policy of our neighbours, for his wisdom is ours.
  2. If we [are] in danger, his power is ours, to bring us out.
  3. If we have sinned, his mercy is ours, to forgive us. He himself being ours, his mercy must needs be ours. The whole being ours, it followeth out of the strength of reason that the parts also must be ours.
  4. In any want, his all-sufficiency is ours, to supply it or to turn it to good, and make it up in a better kind.
  5. In a word, God being ours, whatsoever is in God, whatsoever God can do, whatsoever he hath, is ours, because himself is ours. And therefore, I beseech you, make this use of it, to get into Christ by faith; to be one with Christ, that so God may be our God: Get faith above all graces, the grace of union and the grace of communion; that being one with Christ, we are one with him.[1]

It is an amazing statement: “If God be ours, then all is ours too.” But is it true?

First, Sibbes explains that the wisdom of God belongs to those who have been united to Christ through faith alone, according to God’s grace. Indeed, it is true that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Prov. 9:10), and we are taught this fear of the Lord and knowledge of holiness at the moment of salvation. In Colossians 2:2-3, Paul even speaks of a great comfort and assurance to be found in unity with Christ, in whom dwells treasures of wisdom and knowledge.[2] So, Sibbes is correct that to be united to Christ is to enjoy the benefit of wisdom—a wisdom that surpasses even the wisdom of Solomon, for it is in this wisdom that God found a perfect way to make certain that where He is, we will also be (John 14:3).

Secondly, Sibbes claims that, when we find ourselves in danger, our union with Christ means that Christ’s power is ours to rescue us from danger. The Apostle Paul once more writes a word of agreement in 2 Corinthians 1:10 when, after having described the trials of following Christ, he declared that Jesus, “Delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us.” This is the faith of the three Hebrew children in Daniel 3:17 who, when threatened with a fiery furnace, declared, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.” Indeed, our Savior is a dragon slayer and crusher (Gen. 3:15) and “in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). To be united to Christ means to be made more than conquerors over sin, death, the devil, and all other wicked things that would threaten to separate us from our Triune God (Rom. 8:31-37). His power is ours, but our true rejoicing is in the fact that our names are written in Heaven (Luke 10:19-20).

Third, Sibbes gloriously declares that God’s mercy is ours in Christ, and how it must be! If not for the mercy of God, He would be forced to measure out upon us every last droplet of wrath that had been stored up for us because of our iniquity. But when Jesus went to the Cross, He went to drink the cup of God’s wrath in full; He went to exhaust God’s wrath. In Christ, we have a sin-bearer whose mercy knows no bounds. Our union with Christ means, and even necessitates, that we boldly approach His Throne of grace daily to find mercy and grace to help in our times of need (Heb. 4:16). In union with Him, our scarlet sins are forgiven, and we are made as white as snow (Is. 1:18).

Fourth, Sibbes encourages us to trust that Christ’s all-sufficiency is ours. No matter the trial or temptation, we can rest in the assurance that Christ is enough. He is able to lead us as a Shepherd through even the valley of the shadow of death itself. In the salvation He graciously pours out upon us, He also offers us an astonishing and triumphal victory: “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:13-15). As Paul said, we can count all else as loss if we have but Christ, for Christ is our all in all (Phil. 3:7-8). He, in His sovereignty, can turn our mourning to joy, our weeping to laughing, and accomplish our greatest good and His greatest glory in any and every situation (Rom. 8:28).

Therefore, with these four statements made, Sibbes makes a fifth point that bears repeating: “In a word, God being ours, whatsoever is in God, whatsoever God can do, whatsoever he hath, is ours, because himself is ours.” Christ is that pearl of great price for which a merchant sells all he has, just so he can lay hold of that precious treasure (Matt. 13:45-46). He is that treasure that no rust can corrupt, no moth can consume, no thief can steal, and no fire can destroy (Matt. 6:20-21). The one who has Jesus, though he has nothing else, has all. The one who does not have Jesus, though he has all else, has nothing.

We, who have trusted in Christ by faith, are joined together with Him in a blessed and perfect union with an infinite number of comforts and benefits. That terrible and anguished cry of Jesus upon Calvary, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” has given way to the promise of, “My child, my child, I will never leave nor forsake you.” He is with us and what is His now belongs to us. But should you reject Christ and this most perfect union He offers, then how terrible your estate! “If God be not ours, it is no matter what else is ours. Alas! all things must be taken from us, we know not how soon, and we taken from all things else.”[3]

Therefore, let us put forth more faith that we may be one with Christ and declare, “I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies” (Song of Solomon 6:3).


Jacob Tanner is pastor of Mt. Bethel Church of McClure in Central Pennsylvania. He has spent time as a reporter, journalist, and editor, and has written for various Christian websites. He and his wife, Kayla, have one son, Josiah. Jacob is currently completing his M.Div. through Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


Related Links

The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes

"Justification and Union with Christ" by Tim Bertolet

"Union with Christ is Everything" by Joshua Steely

"Redemptive History, Union with Christ and the Liturgical Calendar" by Nick Batzig

Eating and Drinking with God by Ken Golden


Notes

[1] Richard Sibbes, A Heavenly Conference (West Linn, OR: Monergism Books, 2017), 78.

[2] “That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

[3] Richard Sibbes, A Heavenly Conference, 78.