Berkhof On Union With Christ

The mystical union in the sense in which we are now speaking of it is not the judicial ground, on the basis of which we become partakers of the riches that are in Christ. It is sometimes said that the merits of Christ cannot be imputed to us as long as we are not in Christ, since it is only on the basis of our oneness with Him that such an imputation could be reasonable. But this view fails to distinguish between our legal unity with Christ and our spiritual oneness with Him, and is a falsification of the fundamental element in the doctrine of redemption, namely, of the doctrine of justification.

—Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 452. (HT: Brian Chang)

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  1. So first the objective and judicial declaration by God at the moment the WORD is quickened in human hearts producing the first effect of salvation – faith, and then, the subjective experience of union with Christ? The ‘born-again’ experience of radical transformation of old wine-skins into new wine-skins?

  2. Franklin,

    To your question from Berkhof –

    1. THE REFORMED VIEW. Proceeding on the assumption that man’s spiritual condition depends on his state, that is, on his relation to the law; and that it is only on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ that the sinner can be delivered from the corrupting and destructive influence of sin, — Reformed Soteriology takes its starting point in the union established in the pactum salutis between Christ and those whom the Father has given Him, in virtue of which there is an eternal imputation of the righteousness of Christ to those who are His. (p. 460)

    … the eternal basis of the union and of its objective realization in Christ…

    Reformed theology, on the other hand, deals with the union of believers with Christ theologically, and as such does far greater justice to this important subject. In doing so it employs the term “mystical union” in a broad sense as a designation not only of the subjective union of Christ and believers, but also of the union that lies back of it, that is basic to it, and of which it is only the culminating expression, namely, the federal union of Christ and those who are His in the counsel of redemption, the mystical union ideally established in that eternal counsel, and the union as it is objectively effected in the incarnation and the redemptive work of Christ. (p. 495)

    • Thanks, Dr Clark. I can see now why Richard Baxter accused John Owen of teaching ‘eternal justification’. You really need to think very very clearly here to understand the finer distinctions of language and thought. John Owen accordingly took pains to rebut Baxter, and his writing into these finer distinctions is really worth the effort in understanding. I recognize the need to continue to get to grips with ‘union with Christ’, and the ‘ordu salutis’. One of my attendant question about the OT corpus on ‘union with Christ’. Would you know of any Reformer (eg., Turretin, Calvin) or modern-day scholar who has written extensively on the close connection of these two very vital subjects? I continue to hear messages on the gospel which amazingly leave out these two vital subjects, or treat them as assumed or implicit, when, in view of the Arminian pervasiveness across the land, ought not be.

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