“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).
What do we gain in Christ? What does it mean to “be saved?”
The immediate benefit of salvation is union with Christ. We are connected to Christ. We draw life from him; he is the vine, and we are the branches (John 15:4-5). Rankin Wilbourne talks about the difference between Batman and Spider-Man. Batman is a superhero because of his magnificent brain and incredible discipline — not to mention his fabulous wealth. Spider-Man is a superhero because he was bitten by a radioactive spider. We’re like Spider-Man: “Something alien to you, from outside of you, has entered into you and changed your nature. You now have power that you did not have before.”1
This union produces “a new spiritual vitality within the human.”2 Again, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2Cor 5:17). We are given a new heart, a new nature that can desire God’s will (Rom 7-8). And “[s]ince we are united to Christ, we must eventually be like him. Since we can never be separated from him, we will always be with him (1 Jn 3:2).”3 Because we are united with him, everything he has is also ours, and we are already seated with him in the heavenly realms (Eph 2:6).
As a result of our union with Christ, we receive forgiveness of sins. Because of what Christ did on the cross, the penalty for our sins can be counted as paid (2Cor 5:21). And this is not a grudging forgiveness. God does not simply say, “I’ll try not to mention this again.” No! “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). It’s always struck me that it doesn’t say “as far as the north is from the south.” David may not have known, but the Holy Spirit did — the north is 12,430 miles from the south. East and west, however, are infinitely far apart. God has removed our sins from us completely and hurled them “into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). Our debt is paid; it will not burden us again. And God no longer sees us as sinners.
Because of this, we are redeemed. Redemption is the terminology of setting slaves free. We have been bought by the blood of the Lamb. We were captives to sin and the dark powers, but God “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13-14). According to Tony Evans, “we have been redeemed in such a way that nobody can ever enslave us again. It means we are redeemed completely and permanently.”4 We are now free from bondage to sin. It has no power over us that we do not give it.
Finally, because we are united to Christ and the forgiveness that brings, we are reconciled to God. “Reconciliation is that work of God made possible through the death of Christ, by which sinners are brought from hostility toward God into a state of spiritual fellowship and harmony with Him. It is a movement from alienation to restoration.”4 We were in a state of enmity against God, but now “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). We can lay down our arms; the war can be over. We were going to lose anyway.
Because we have been reconciled to God, good things are in store for us. “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Rom 5:10). Evans says the idea is that “if you put your trust in Christ’s death to save you, now that He’s risen from the dead you haven’t seen anything yet.” Read the rest in Tony’s yelling voice:
“If Christ can save you and reconcile you to God by His blood, wait until you see what He has in store for you now that He is alive forevermore. If He can take you from hell to heaven by dying, what more can He do for you by rising from the dead? If He can forgive you for all your sins and deliver you from judgment by His death, imagine the power that is at work on your behalf now that He lives!”4
Being united to Christ gives us more than we ever could have imagined. The Father’s love for his Son now envelops us. We are not second-class citizens of heaven. We are loved like the Son because we are in him.
Do you approach God like a beggar with your hat in your hand? Do you approach him like an employee asking a volatile boss for a raise? Live like you are in Christ: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb 4:16).
I encourage you to read Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God by Rankin Wilbourne!
1 Rankin Wilbourne, Union with Christ
2 Millard Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine
3 James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith
4 Tony Evans, Theology You Can Count On, emphasis in original
Part of Christianity 101
Part of Christianity 101