One of the biggest thrusts, if not the overarching theme of Gospel Grace is a woman’s identity in Christ. My post You Do Not Belong To Your Children, You Belong To Christ continues to be hit every day. This is not surprising. Every day women get bombarded with ideas, obvious and subtle, on who they should be. The messages are mixed and they come from all corners. Whether it’s the culture of the world or the culture of the Church, (and the countless veins within each) the propaganda and advice can be dizzying and confusing.
I am convinced that the breakdown in our understanding of human identity today is a lack of understanding and living out of our union with Christ.
We are given all sorts of mixed messages on who men and women ought to be. Setting aside the distinctness of being and roles, there is one answer which Scripture gives us to the question of identity for men and women: To be conformed to the image of his Son. (Romans 8:29)
As women, we need wisdom to see that the images of women the secular culture gives us are lies. We also must be discerning about the voices inside the Church. Different segments of the Church sometimes give conflicting or inadequate messages to women.
We may have many earthly identities: single, married, wife, mother, daughter, friend, sister, butcher, baker, candlestick-maker, etc. etc. However, there is a wider and deeper reality than all of this: A Christian woman is in union with Christ. A Christian woman is in Christ. THAT is our objective reality. It is Christ who defines person-hood.
As a first principle this is where we need to start as Christian humans. All thought, and the subsequent actions from that thought, should come from our union with Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17)
Let me end with just one example (there are many) of how our understanding of our union with Christ affects our everyday life. As a wife, I submit to my husband according to Ephesians 5 because of the fact that I am united to Christ. I submit because Christ submitted to the Father and I am in Christ. All the secondary and tertiary reasons for why we are called to submit are of no value unless we fully internalize what it means to be in Christ. Moreover, there is no greater motivation or power to live in line with this section of Scripture except the knowledge of my union with Christ. Saying that it is in the Bible does not make this Scripture effective. Claiming to be a complementarian does not make these verses effective. What makes all the realities of new life effective, is our union with Christ.
Here are ways a woman can think about union in Christ:
- If you are a Christian you were chosen by the Father before the creation of the universe and before anything existed, even before you existed. Your union with Christ has its roots in divine election. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Ephesians 1:3–4) Hoekema, Saved by Grace pages 55-57
- Your union with Christ is based on his redemptive work. Christ came to earth to save his people. “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21). Hoekema, Saved by Grace pages 57-59
- Your actual union with Christ began at regeneration. At regeneration (new birth-when your spirit was made alive) the Holy Spirit brings you into a living union with Christ. “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5) Hoekema, Saved by Grace pages 59-60
- Throughout your life you appropriate your union with Christ through faith. That is, we exercise/seize/make our own/live out our new lives in Christ, through faith. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) Hoekema, Saved by Grace page 60
- Our justification (where God declares us “not guilty,” forgiving all our sins, and at the same time imputing all of Christ’s obedience and righteousness to us as if we have always obeyed) is inseparable from our union with Christ. “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,” (1 Corinthians 1:30) “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7) “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:9) Hoekema, Saved by Grace page 61
- We are sanctified (the progressive work of the Holy Spirit over our lifetime to conform us to the image of Christ—hence bearing spiritual fruit) through our union with Christ. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4–5) Hoekema, Saved by Grace page 62
- We persevere (endure, persist, remain steadfast) in our faith because of our union with Christ. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) Hoekema, Saved by Grace page 63
- We die in Christ. “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:8) Hoekema, Saved by Grace page 63
- We are raised with Christ already and not yet. In one sense our new self has already begun at regeneration. At the same time we will be resurrected as our glorified selves at Christ’s return. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2) Hoekema, Saved by Grace page 64
- We will live in eternity with Christ as glorified women. “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17) Hoekema, Saved by Grace page 64