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VI.

UNION WITH CHRIST.

THERE is therefore now no condemnation to them

which are in Christ Jesus." "Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not." "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord." These three declarations set forth comprehensively the immunities and privileges of believers in Christ. The first guarantees peace with God; the second, purity of life; and the third, eternal joy. It is, however, most important to observe that these immunities and blessings are all conditional on union with Christ, and that a union of a unique and peculiar kind. "No condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus;" no sin in the case of those who abide in Him; and a blessed future for those who die in the Lord. None of the cases of personal union with which we are familiar could be expressed in this way. We may be united to one another in various ways, by ties of different degrees of strength and tenderness; but we never speak of being in one another. The ties which bind us to one another are ties of association, of connection, and of contact; but the relation indicated here is evidently more intimate than any of these. The first thing we have to do, then, in order to deal with this great subject, is to try to understand as clearly as possible the nature of the relation on which this security, power, and fruitfulness alone are based.

The texts quoted are all from the latter half of the New Testament; and this is no mere accident. Texts of the same kind might be quoted by the hundred between the one in Romans and the one in the Revelation; but not in the earlier part of the New Testament. How is this? How comes it that our Lord has so little to say on a matter so important? In the holy Gospels the relation of Christ to His people is set forth in a variety of ways. He is the Teacher, they the disciples; He the Master, they the servants; He the Leader, they the followers; and so on. Then there are also tenderer relations referred to; as, for instance, when He said, "Whosoever doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother." But we read page after page of the Gospels without finding the intimate view of the relationship expressed by the preposition in: in Christ Jesus. To this rule, however, there is one notable exception found in our Lord's last words to His disciples in the upper chamber before His Passion-that wonderful last discourse recorded by St. John. In that discourse the thought is not only introduced but is brought into special prominence. It comes in, however, by way of anticipation. The Saviour is looking forward to the time after He shall have left them, and the Holy Spirit shall have come; and of that coming time He says: "At that day shall ye know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you." A declaration this of very great importance, though it has received wonderfully little attention. The commentators for the most part pass it by, and one rarely hears it made a subject of discourse; yet there it stands, the very first passage in which the great thought is introduced of the Christian being in Christ.

"At that day shall ye know that I am in My Father,

and ye in Me, and I in you." From the way in which our Saviour thus introduces the idea, it is evident that the intimacy of this relation belongs to the dispensation of the Spirit. These striking words indicate the new way in which the presence of Christ must thereafter be realised in experience. As long as He was here on earth His presence with His disciples was manifested through the senses. He was with them just as they were with each other. Sometimes they were together, sometimes they were apart, and His nearness or distance made a very great difference to them. They were strong in His presence, and in His absence exceedingly helpless and weak. And now that His presence is to be entirely withdrawn, what will they do? The prospect seems hopeless in the extreme. Now sorrow, and not sorrow only, but something akin to despair, filled their hearts at the prospect of the removal from them of that presence in which they had found their safety, their strength, and their joy. It was in these circumstances that our Lord addressed to His disciples those comforting words to which we have referred. And the substance of the comfort He thereby gave them was just this: that His presence was to be withdrawn in one sense, but restored in another; it was to be withdrawn in an inferior degree, to be restored in a far better way; it was to be withdrawn after the flesh and restored in the Spirit; it was to be withdrawn as a human presence, and restored as a Divine presence; it was to be withdrawn as a local presence, and restored as omnipresence; it was to be withdrawn as an occasional and temporary presence, and restored as a perpetually abiding presence: all which is implied in the transition from the preposition with to the preposition in. We cannot go beyond the preposition with when speaking of a human presence.

We

can use the same, indeed, in speaking of the Divine presence, and our Saviour accordingly used the old and familiar expression when He gave the promise, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world;" for whatever of nearness is involved in the human presence is there too; but there is much more; so much more that the old with becomes inadequate: the intimacy is much greater: that which was nearness in the flesh becomes interpenetration in the Spirit; so that in effect He says to His disciples, "In that day, when ye shall know that I am in My Father, ye shall also know as a matter of spiritual experience, that ye are in Me, and I in you."

Inasmuch as this is a matter of spiritual experience, known only to those who have received the Spirit, it is exceedingly difficult to speak of it in the words of ordinary speech. Hence the need of illustrations from common things in order to help to a right understanding of it. Accordingly, our Lord presently makes most effective use of the illustration of the vine and the branches, the appropriateness of which can be seen almost at a glance. The relation of the branch to the vine is not simply that of association and simple connection. The branch is not with the vine; it is in it-it lives the life of the vine-it is absolutely dependent for all it is, and all it can ever be, and all it can produce, upon the vital currents which come to it from the vine. So the life of the branch is not the branch's life; it is the vine's life in the branch. So that when our Saviour, looking forward to the dispensation of the Spirit very soon to begin, says, "Abide in Me, and I in you," He explains Himself as meaning, Abide in Me as the branch abides in the vine, and I in you as the life of the vine abides in the branch. The illustration of the body and

its members so frequently used by the Apostle Paul is to the same effect precisely. The hand is not with the body merely, it is in it; it lives a life which belongs to it only so long as it is in the body. If you were to sever it from the body, its life would cease. So our position in Christ is like that of the hand in the body, and Christ living in us is like the life of the body animating the hand.

But there is another of our Lord's illustrations which will perhaps come closer to the point of view suggested by His way of introducing the subject: "At that day" (evidently the day when the Holy Spirit shall have come) "ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you." The illustration referred to is that suggested by the very word "spirit," which means. breath or air, and also by the words addressed to Nicodemus: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, .. so is every one that is born of the Spirit."

The nearest analogue that nature has to spiritual, as distinguished from bodily, presence, and omnipresence, as distinguished from mere local presence, is the air—that vast atmospheric ocean in which we live, and move, and have our being. It suggests the spiritual because we cannot see it, and, when it is still, we cannot feel it; and, therefore, it is quite possible to be surrounded by it, and yet not be conscious of its presence. And then, whither can we go from its presence? If we ascend the highest Alp, it is there; if we descend to the deepest abyss, it is there; could we take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, there should we find it too. And then not only are we always in it, but it is no less true that it is always in us. It is just as necessary to our life that the air should be in us, as that we should be in it. In all this we have a very helpful

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