Lesson 17: The Human Conditions for Union with Christ | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 17: The Human Conditions for Union with Christ

As stated in the Introduction to this section, the only way one can receive the benefits of Christ’s death is by being united with Christ. “Union with Christ” is one way of describing the relationship that exists between Christ and the believer begun at the moment of salvation. Union with Christ does not just happen. Certain things must take place before one is united with Christ. The conditions for union with Christ, which we will study in this lesson and the next, can be divided into two types:

1. The human conditions for union with Christ

[That is, what is required that I must to do be saved.]

2. The divine conditions for union with Christ

[That is, what is required from God for me to be saved.]

The human conditions for union with Christ are those aspects of salvation in which man participates with God. While the Bible teaches that these aspects are initiated and empowered by God, man plays an active and necessary role. This lesson will focus on the following human conditions for union with Christ:

1. Repentance

2. Faith

[It is very important that both of these be emphasized. Without both of these there is no true salvation. Many people who make professions of faith never really got saved at all because they did not couple faith with repentance. Both are necessary.]

I. Repentance

A. The meaning of repentance

1. Wrong views of repentance

a. Repentance is not simply sorrow for sin.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse.   Matthew 27:3

[Judas was sorry about what he had done, and he even admitted his guilt, yet there was no true repentance. Sorrow for sin is part of it, but not all of it.]

b. Repentance is not penance .

Penance is a Roman Catholic idea involving: 1) confession to a priest; 2) the priest’s pronouncement of absolution [restoration to good standing] ; and 3) an assignment of works to do or prayers to say. Penance assumes that Christ’s work was not sufficient and teaches that salvation involves the sinner’s good works . Penance is completely unbiblical.

[You may have heard of Catholics doing all sorts of things, like crawling on their knees up long flights of stairs, whipping themselves, repeating long prayers over and over–these are all examples of penance. A priest tells the person that he has to do this stuff in order to pay for his sin.]

2. The biblical view of repentance

The biblical word translated “repentance” literally means to “ change one’s mind .” Repentance is a change of mind regarding God and sin . It is the change of mind away from sin and to God. This change of mind involves more than one’s opinion. It involves a rejection of sin and a commitment to God.

[Think of repentance as making a 180 degree turn. You were going one way, but after repentance you’re going the exact opposite way. It’s a change of mind and will. ]

a. Repentance involves a change of mind regarding sin .

1) It requires a knowledge of one’s sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. – Psalm 51:3

2) It requires a genuine sorrow for one’s sin.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation.   2 Corinthians 7:10

3) It requires the rejection of one’s sin.

. . . repentance from acts that lead to death.   Hebrews 6:1

[The emphasis is on the word “from.” Repentance is turning from sin to God. ]

4) It requires a desire to seek God’s pardon for one’s sin.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.   Psalm 51:1-2

Some people [i.e. Hodges, Ryrie, Dallas Sem.] teach that repentance is simply a change of mind regarding Christ . However, any definition of repentance which leaves out the idea of a conscious and active rejection of sin is inadequate.

b. Repentance involves a change of mind regarding God .

I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance.   Acts 20:21

Prior to salvation, man embraces sin and rejects God. Repentance is that act which reverses man’s allegiance. In repentance, one decides to reject sin and embrace God.

[Add this: c. Repentance results in changed behavior.

Acts 26:20 “but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.]

B. The origin of repentance

1. Repentance does not originate in man .

Unsaved men are completely rebellious and have no desire for God. They are unable and unwilling to change their minds regarding sin and God.

The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.   Romans 8:7

2. Repentance originates with God .

Repentance is a gift of God. Because the totally depraved sinner is incapable of repenting, God must give him the ability to do so.

God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.   Acts 5:31

“So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”   Acts 11:18

. . . in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.   2 Timothy 2:25

II. Faith

The Bible describes several different kinds of faith. The faith necessary for salvation is commonly referred to as “saving faith.”

A. The meaning of saving faith

1. Saving faith requires knowledge . [intellectual content]

Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.   Romans 10:17

What must one believe in order to be saved?

The gospel message includes the fact of man’s condition (sin), God’s remedy for that condition (the person and work of Christ), and the response God requires in order for that remedy to be applied to the sinner (faith and repentance). In order for a man to be saved, he must understand that he is a sinner who has fallen short of the standard of perfection demanded by a holy God and is, therefore, deserving of sin’s penalty, namely, death; that the God-man, Jesus Christ, has met the standard by means of His sinless life and has paid the penalty by means of His sacrificial death; and that by responding in faith and repentance he can be justified in God’s sight as a result of Christ’s work (both His sinless life and sacrificial death) being imputed to him.

2. Saving faith requires assent.

But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. – Matthew 13:23

One must not only know certain facts in order to be saved, but he must also realize that they apply to him. In the parable of the sower, the only one of the four who exercised saving faith was the one who not only comprehended the facts (“hears the word”) but also perceived their significance (“understands it”). It is not enough for one to acknowledge that he needs a Savior, nor is it enough for one to acknowledge that Christ was the Savior. Saving faith involves the acknowledgement that Christ must become my Savior.

[This is what we mean by “assent:” One must apply the facts to his own life.]

3. Saving faith requires commitment . [an exercise of the will]

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. – Romans 10:9

Saving faith involves a commitment to follow Christ in obedience. It is a commitment to Christ as both Sin bearer ( Savior ) and Master

( Lord ).

[The aspect of trust or reliance would come under this. When you trust Christ as your savior, you are committing yourself to him, putting your full faith and confidence in Jesus as your savior. Concepts such as loyalty and commitment to Christ are consistent with saving faith.

These are three aspects of faith, but they are not three separate steps. When one hears, understands, and responds by putting his confidence/trust in Christ, he has exercised faith. ]

B. The object of saving faith

In order to be saved, one must have faith in both the person and work of Jesus Christ .

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.   Acts 16:31

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.   Romans 3:22

[If a person says “I believe in Jesus,” is he necessarily saved? No. C.f. Matt 7:21-23. There are certain things one must believe about Jesus. So faith involves believing in Jesus and believing certain things about Jesus.]

C. The origin of saving faith

1. Saving faith does not originate in man .

Man cannot produce saving faith. He neither seeks it nor initiates it.

a. Saving faith does not come from knowing historical facts .

The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner.   Acts 26:26

In this passage, Paul acknowledges that King Agrippa knows much about the gospel message. Because Christ’s death was a well known fact, and His message was being openly proclaimed, the king could not claim ignorance. However, King Agrippa did not trust Christ. While faith must be based upon factual information, the knowledge of such information alone does not produce saving faith.

[This is why we don’t emphasize all the evidences of the Christian faith. People do not ultimately get saved because the are persuaded that the facts of the Bible are true. Neither do people reject Christianity because they are skeptical about the Bible’s truthfulness. Saving faith originates in God, not man. ]

b. Saving faith does not come from human logic .

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.   1 Corinthians 1:21

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.   1 Corinthians 2:4 5

While faith is logical, human logic alone cannot produce faith.

[Some men have come up with detailed, complex methods of “proving” the existence of God, the truth of the Bible, etc. We don’t use them because, while our faith is reasonable, it does not rest upon logic alone.]

2. Saving faith originates with God .

Saving faith involves a knowledge of the facts of the gospel and the use of logic to understand such facts. However, neither historical facts nor human logic produce saving faith. Like repentance, saving faith is a gift of God. God graciously gives the rebellious sinner the faith to believe.

On arriving there, [Paul and Barnabas] gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.   Acts 14:27

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith  and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.   Ephesians 2:8

The structure of the Greek sentence in Ephesians 2:8 indicates that the word translated “gift” refers to the whole process of salvation. Faith is certainly one of the elements in that process. From these texts it is clear that faith is something God must give.

Note: Repentance and faith are simultaneous, that is, they happen at the same time. You cannot have one without the other. They are inseparable.

I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.   Acts 20:21

Repentance and faith are the two aspects of the one act commonly referred to as conversion .

[In the study of repentance and faith, two things God requires of us to be saved, we see that God is responsible for both of them. Man cannot/will not repent or believe on his own. Both are gifts from God.

Some say that salvation is purely belief in Christ without any mention of repentance. This definition of salvation comes short. Repentance is part of the equation. One must turn from sin to God. ]

Learning to Live It

1. While on vacation, your family attends a church where the pastor preaches a salvation message. In his sermon he says, “You must trust Christ and repent.” He then defines repentance by saying, “Repentance is a change of mind regarding Jesus Christ. You must stop rejecting Him. Turn to Him today and reject Him no longer.” What is missing from this pastor’s definition of repentance?

any mention of sorrow for one’s sin or a desire to turn away from it. What that pastor is really doing is redefining repentance.

Can a person truly be saved if his repentance does not include admitting and rejecting his sin?

No, he has not really repented

2. You and a Christian friend begin to witness to a fellow teenager. In the course of the conversation, your friend launches into a logical defense of the Bible in an attempt to convince this unsaved teen to believe in Christ. Will this kind of logic cause him to believe? Why or why not?

no; Belief is not dependent upon a logical understanding of the facts or being convinced that they are true. One is not saved by being convinced of the facts.

He is not in a state of neutrality; rather, he is predisposed against God. He is unable and unwilling to positively respond (1 Cor 2:14). He will always misinterpret such facts.

What is the more biblical approach to take when witnessing?

Use the Bible, the only means whereby one can be saved (Rom 10:17). Present the gospel clearly, accurately and biblically. Let God do the work necessary to bring a person to faith.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.