“The words (persecute me) point to a relationship infinitely deeper and richer than [merely adopting another set of beliefs and practices]. Jesus Christ was claiming such an intimate union with his people that what happened to him and therefore — by implication — what is true of him is also true of them.”- Timothy Keller
“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, who you are persecuting.’ “- Acts 9:3-5 (NIV)
Timothy Keller concludes Chapter 7 of Hope in Times of Fear with an observation about the pre- and postconversion Paul. Before, Paul viewed the Bible as a series of laws and moral stories. Those laws and stories, Paul believed, taught you how to life in order to merit God’s blessing.
However, when Paul truly grasped the stubborn fact of Jesus’s resurrection, he started to reread the Bible within a Christ-centered framework. As a result, everything looked different.
Therefore, in Paul’s letters alone, he describes Christians as being ‘in Christ’ or ‘in the Lord’ or ‘in him’ over 160 times. And Paul uses the past tense, meaning this intimate union with Christ has already happened. In addition, Pastor Keller points out, two important aspects make up this union:
- We’re united with Christ legally. God sees us as free from the penalty of sin – as if we’d died on the cross ourselves. And, as Romans 3:28 tells us, we are “justified by faith.”
- This union is vital and spiritual. As happened during Paul’s conversion, the Holy Spirit himself comes into us. Furthermore, 2 Peter 1:4 indicates that we become partakers in God’s divine nature.
In conclusion, Pastor Keller describes the way the legal and vital connect as well as strenghten each other. Timothy writes:
“The more we are assured of our legal acceptance, the more free our hearts are from fear and shame and the more they are drawn to our Savior in joyful love, the more we experience his love she abroad in our hearts by the Spirit (Romans 5:5).”
Today’s question: What Bible verses point you to an intimate union with Jesus Christ? Please share.
Tomorrow’s blog: “Holding to sound doctrine – absolutely essential”