Lesson 20: The Practical Benefits of Union With Christ, Part 1 | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 20: The Practical Benefits of Union with Christ, Part 1

Union with Christ not only has many positional benefits but several practical benefits as well. [What do we mean by "positional”? A change in status/standing. What were these benefits? Justification (being declared righteous), Adoption (being taken into God’s family) and Eternal Security (once saved, always saved.)] Because of his union with Christ, the believer experiences a number of benefits in daily life.

In this lesson, we will study three of the practical benefits of union with Christ:


1. The benefit of perseverance

2. The benefit of assurance

3. The benefit of sanctification

I. The Benefit of Perseverance

Perseverance means that a believer will continue to live as one who is saved. Genuine believers will persevere, or remain committed, in two key areas. These areas serve as two tests of genuine salvation.

A. The doctrinal test: Genuine believers remain committed to the Word of God.

By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.   1 Corinthians 15:2

But now He has reconciled you . . . if you continue in [t[the]aith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.   Colossians 1:22 23

Both of these passages stress the need for continual commitment to the gospel. The phrases, “the word” and “the faith,” however, broaden the commitment to include all basic Christian doctrine. A true believer will not reject the gospel nor the major doctrines of the Christian faith (such as the deity of Christ and the inerrancy of Scripture). If one does so, he demonstrates that he is not genuinely saved.

[I[Is there room for doctrinal disagreement? Yes, up to a point. Can a person not believe exactly like me and still be saved? Yes. Also cf. 1 John 2:19]/b>

B. The moral test: Genuine believers remain committed to growth in godliness.

We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.   1 John 2:3 4

Because a genuine believer is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), he will change the direction of his life. He will have a desire to grow in the knowledge of God and obey Him. If there is no desire to grow and obey, it may be due to the fact that he is not really saved.

Note: It is possible for genuine believers to temporarily rebel . However, such rebellion is in deed only (rejection of God’s Word is impossible for a true believer). [I[It is possible for believers to misunderstand or be misled. Thus true believers may be a part of an errant denomination, movement, or group.]/b>Three principles should be noted, however. First, believers who do not grow are the exception rather than the rule . Second, believers who rebel in these areas have no biblical basis for assurance of their salvation (1 John 2:3 4). [T[That is, such a person has no firm basis on which to be sure they are saved. If there is no evidence of salvation, there is no assurance of it.]/b>Finally, believers who rebel in these areas should anticipate God’s discipline rather than His blessing. Such discipline may be very severe. For example, the members of the Church at Corinth rebelled by disrespecting the Lord’s Supper. As a result, God severely disciplined them.

That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have [d[died]  1 Corinthians 11:30 (See also 1 John 5:16.)

II. The Benefit of Assurance

Another practical benefit of being united with Christ is assurance of salvation. Assurance of salvation is the confidence the believer has that he is genuinely saved. [T[That is, one does not continually doubt it, worry about it, and wonder if he really is saved. He’s confident that he is. Assurance is often confused with eternal security. They are like two sides of the same coin. Assurance is the believer’s confidence that he is saved. Eternal security is the fact that God keeps the believer saved.]/b>There are three things which God uses to give assurance of salvation. All three of them must be present in the believer’s life in order for him to have a biblical basis for believing that he is saved.

[E[Explain difference between assurance (a subjective confidence that you are really saved) and eternal security (the fact that one cannot lose his salvation).]b>

A. The genuine believer believes the promises of God to save and keep him.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.   John 3:16

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. – John 10:28-29

[G[God has promised to save people and to keep them saved. What would have to be true if God did not keep believers saved? 1. He’s not powerful enough; 2. He lied.]b>

B. The genuine believer will persevere in faith and good works.

Christian assurance is inseparably linked to perseverance. If one who claims to be a Christian does not continue in his commitment to correct doctrine and a life of obedience, he has no biblical basis for believing that he is saved.

[I[If one is not persevering in faith and good works, can he be confident that he is saved? No, he has no basis to think that he is saved.

What are some evidences ("vital signs”) of salvation? Several are found in 1 John:

  1. Walking in the light, i.e., living a godly life (1:5-7)

  2. Obeying Christ’s commands (2:3-6)

  3. Love for other believers (3:14-17)

  4. Orthodox doctrine (correct belief) (4:6)

Those who display such evidences of salvation in their lives have good reason to have confidence that they are truly saved. Those lacking such evidences have no reason to think that they are saved.]b>

C. The genuine believer receives the Holy Spirit’s inner testimony .

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.   Romans 8:16

Using the Word of God , the Holy Spirit convinces the believer that he is a child of God. He convinces him of the truthfulness of those verses which promise that God will save and keep those who accept Him as Lord and Savior.

[Not[Note that the inner testimony applies specifically to one’s assurance of being saved. It does not apply to other things, like what one should do or where to go, etc. ]

III. The Benefit of Sanctification

Sanctification is the setting apart of the believer by God. It has both a positional and a practical aspect. The positional aspect is the fact that God has set apart all believers from the world and to Himself. [Thi[This occurs at the moment of salvation. It is not a sensory/emotional experience.]>The practical aspect deals with the continual, progressive change that takes place as the believer matures spiritually.

[Pra[Practical sanctification is also known as progressive sanctification. The believer’s life should be characterized by continual, progressive growth in godliness. There will be setbacks, but the general tendency will be toward growth.]

A. Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit .

God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit. – 2 Thessalonians 2:13

The Holy Spirit changes believers through their knowledge of Scripture (John 17:17). Thus, if one is to live a sanctified (holy) life, he must study the Bible, the tool the Holy Spirit uses to help him grow.

[Gro[Growth as a Christian is directly tied to Bible study/reading/meditation. The more familiar you become with the Bible, the more biblical you start thinking, and the more biblically you start living. Thus, you can’t grow much apart from access to God’s Word, both written and proclaimed (preached).]

B. Sanctification involves the believer’s active obedience .

Some people view the Christian life as a series of mystical experiences in which the Holy Spirit “ moves ” them. According to this school of thought, the believer is always passive , waiting for the Spirit to move him to pray, witness, etc. [E.g[E.g., some Pentecostal groups just wait for God to "say something” in their meetings.]>Though sanctification is the work of the Spirit, God never commands the believer to wait for some “moving.” He simply commands him to live obediently.

Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.   2 Corinthians 7:1

[Thus,[Thus, we take an active roll in growth. We don’t just wait for it to happen. It takes discipline: Bible study, prayer, rejection of sin, acceptance of responsibilities, etc.]/p>

C. Sanctification involves a change in direction .

Before one comes to Christ, he is a slave to sin. After God saves him, however, his direction in life changes. From that moment on, he separates from wickedness and embraces godliness.

1. The believer separates from wickedness.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and [Satan[Satan] does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?   2 Corinthians 6:14 15

The “yoke” in this passage refers to a union between two or more people. A believer has no business uniting with an unbeliever.

[The c[The context of the above verse deals with false teachers. Hence the command applies to contact/interaction/participation with those who hold wrong doctrine. Paul’s not saying we can’t be friends or associates with unbelievers.

Cf. also Eph 5:6-8, 11. Separation has been a key factor in Fundamentalism. Back in the 40’s-50’s a group of Evangelicals decided to reject separation in favor of inclusion. These people are called "New Evangelicals.” Many of them would agree substantially with us doctrinally, but are out of order when it comes to practice.]/p>

2. The believer embraces godliness.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. – Colossians 3:1

D. Sanctification is the natural result of saving faith .

Some people [E.g., C[E.g., Charles Ryrie, Zane Hodges ]ch that a person may trust Christ as Savior at a point in time without an accompanying commitment to obey Him. Such a commitment may come at a later point in time. According to this view, the Christian life is centered around two spiritual “high points”: the time of salvation and the time of dedication . [This al[This allows for two classes of Christians: Those who are not dedicated/committed and those who are.]s separation of dedication from salvation is unbiblical, for the Bible indicates that:

1. Saving faith itself is an act of obedience .

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.   2 Thessalonians 1:8

[Cf. als[Cf. also John 3:36 — "obey” is parallel/synonymous with "believe.” Belief is obeying the gospel.]>

2. Saving faith is described as obedient faith.

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.   James 2:14 17

The question James is asking in this passage is: Can a nonworking faith save? His conclusion is: No! Such a faith is dead. Like empty words, it accomplishes nothing. Commitment to obey Christ cannot be separated from true faith.

[It’s nece[It’s necessary to reemphasize that a non-committed Christian is not allowed for in the NT. Discipleship/dedication is assumed to be the normal state of affairs. Commitment is not just for "super” Christians. There is no special category for those who claim to be saved yet have no fruit to indicate they are saved. Those who have no evidence have no assurance, and they may have exactly what James is talking about: "dead” faith (i.e., no faith).]>Note: There are times in the believer’s life when he makes important decisions to dedicate himself more fully to his Savior. In fact, the Christian life is really a day by day, moment by moment process of dedicating oneself to Christ. What is unbiblical is the idea that dedication to Christ is an option for the believer. Faith without dedication is a faith that does not save.

Learning to Live It

1. A friend of yours claims that no one can know for sure that he is saved. Is this true?

No. 1 John 5:11-14. Also, the NT authors all knew they were saved and wrote to people as if they could know that they were saved. Further, if one did not know for sure himself that he was saved, why would he ever witness to someone else? Thus there would be no evangelism.

How does God assure His children?

through His promises to keep the believer saved, the believer’s perseverance, and the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit

If this person has good reason to doubt his salvation, what might you conclude?

He may not be saved, or he may have been taught wrong doctrine, or he is mistaken. Never falsely assure someone who may not be saved. No evidence = no assurance.

2. While talking to a Christian friend about his backslidden condition (he no longer attends church, he doesn’t read his Bible, etc.), he replies, “I’m waiting for God to show me what He wants me to do.” What is wrong with your friend’s thinking?

God has already shown him what He wants him to do in His Word. He simply has to start doing that which God has already told him to do. He should not wait for God to “move” him or show him in some special way to obey.

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