Continued from here.
Participating in the Divine Nature
The God who is an eternal communion is a God who wills to share. He does this through creation and maintains His offer in redemption.
The Father, by the Spirit, has created a love-gift through and for the Son – the creation (Col 1:16). His desire is that the Son be the firstborn among many brothers (Rom 8:29). The Father wants many brought into the life of God through the Son and by the Spirit (Gal 4:4-7). This is the goal of all His creating and redeeming purposes.
As Christ says Himself:
‘Father, I want those You have given me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory, the glory You have given Me because You loved Me before the creation of the world… I have made You known to them, and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for Me will be in them, and that I myself may be in them.’ (John 17:24-26)
The glory of our Triune God expresses itself in His will to share His divine life with us. The love of the Father for the Son – that which defines both God and the creation – cascades over to His people when they are united, by His Spirit, to the Son.
By our union with Christ (discussed below), we are thus adopted as sons and daughters in the same Family. In this way, we do not simply share in a favoured status external to the LORD, we share in the Father-Son relationship which is constitutive of the divine life itself. To know and appropriate the love of God is to participate in that which forms the very being of God.
2 Corinthians 1 tells us that God bellows an exultant YES towards His Son (v19). The incarnate Son answers with a mighty AMEN on our behalf (v20). By the Spirit we are sealed into Jesus and find ourselves responding to God with Christ's own AMEN (v21-22). In the Bible, we do not simply admire the LORD from afar, we participate in His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
Union with Christ
The way in to this divine participation is the Son. As John Owen says in his classic book "Communion with God":
‘Scripture shows us that we hold communion with the Lord Jesus in grace by a marriage relationship… This spiritual relationship is accompanied with mutual love, and so in this fellowship with Christ we experience and enjoy all the excellent things which are in Him.’
Christ is the Bridegroom, we (the Church) are His Bride. In this union we enjoy all His benefits as though they were ours by right. Not least of these is His status as the Father’s beloved Son. Therefore Christ can say to His Father, ‘the love You have for Me will be in them.’ In this way we are caught up into God.
The bible speaks of our union with Christ at different levels. In one sense, we share in Jesus’ benefits as co-beneficiaries:
As Christ is the Son, we can be called sons (Galatians 4:4-7)
While Christ is Heir, we are co-heirs (Romans 8:17)
While Christ is the Living Stone, we are living stones (1 Peter 2:4-5)
In this way we are graciously allowed to come alongside Jesus, to be treated to His blessings on the same level.
Yet, at times, Scripture tells of a higher level of identification. Often we are said (in the plural) to be exactly what Jesus is in the singular:
While Christ is the Seed, we are the seed (Galatians 3:16 <=>3:29)
While Christ is the Light of the world, we are the light of the world (John 8:12 <=> Matthew 5:14)
While He is the Vine, we are the branches (John 15:5)
Note that, with this last example, it is not that Christ is the root structure and we are the branches. Rather we form part of the Vine Himself! The Vine is One, we are others, but in this organic relationship that He creates and sustains, we become part of Him.
This leads naturally to a third category by which the bible speaks of our union. That is, in the sense of a symbiotic relationship.
Thus, Christ is the Head, we are the Body (Colossians 1:18)
Christ is the Groom, we are the Bride (Isaiah 54:5; Ezekiel 16; Ephesians 5:21-33; Revelation 19:6-9)
When the bible speaks in these kinds of terms, we are on hallowed ground indeed. Christ unites His Church to Himself that our union might redound to His greater glory. As He says in John 17:10, He is glorified in us.
This is not to say that we sinners complete Christ in the sense of contributing our worth to the equation. In ourselves we could only bring shame to Jesus. Yet Christ redeems and cleanses a Bride and then (Eph 5:26) presents her to Himself. In this way Christ becomes more truly who He is because of His union with us. After all, must not the Head have a Body? Should not the Vine have branches? Ought not the Bridegroom to have a Bride? If He did not have a Bride, would He not have to give up the glory of being Bridegroom? Therefore Christ is very committed to His covenant partner – His own Person and glory is bound up in the fate of His Church.
Christ takes His own marriage advice and loves Himself by loving His Bride (Eph 5:28). Thus when the infinite powers of the Father have been committed to the Son, He employs them solely ‘for the church’. (Eph 1:22). All divine power in heaven and earth is employed for the good of Christ’s Bride. Thus the Church has its immeasurable status both conferred by divine right but also under-girded by divine commitment even to death. No wonder Paul can ask ‘Who will separate us from the love of Christ?’ This is more than impossible.
Our union with Christ could not be closer. The Apostle Paul can speak of our history and identity as entirely bound up in Jesus: ‘When Christ, who is your life, appears, you also will appear with Him in glory.’ (Col 3:1-4) The believer is in fact seated with Christ in the heavenly realms and has not actually appeared yet. We are hidden with Christ in God.
In this way, we are more united to Christ than we are to ourselves. Certainly His identity and not our own determines our standing in God’s eyes both now and in eternity.