Jesus spoke of the joy that erupts in heaven when a sinner repents and comes to believe in the good news. We might imagine they have something like a birthday party to celebrate the new birth, but in reality it’s the rejoicing that accompanies a wedding. It’s a celebration of a new life wedded in union with Christ.
Many of us are looking forward to the wedding banquet yet to come, but Jesus is returning for his bride, not his fiancée. You are already married to him. Your union with Christ is not a future event but a present reality that began the moment you first said “Yes” to Jesus.
Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches,” and from that most wonderful affirmation of our union, confused preachers have drawn terrifying lessons about being cut off and thrown into the fire. Whoa. Slow down. That’s like fretting about divorce in the middle of your honeymoon. Relax. Jesus doesn’t believe in divorce. In fact he hates it. You’re stuck with him for good. What God has joined together, let no man separate.
Look at those words again: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5). Your union with Christ is not a far-off event but an accomplished fact. You are already in Christ. Since there is no part of the branch that is not also part of the vine, anyone who touches you touches Jesus. When you place your hands on the sick, you are placing his hands on the sick. When you open your mouth to speak the good news, you are speaking his words with his mouth.
I have been married for some time so I don’t find this strange at all. I am accustomed to thinking in terms of a one-flesh team. I remind Camilla about this every time the parent-teacher interviews come up at school. “But honey, we don’t need to both go, for if you are there then we are there. We’re a one-flesh team.” And she usually responds by giving me a sideways glance.
I jest to make an important point. Our one-flesh union is an earthly picture of the spiritual union all believers have with Jesus:
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (John 14:20)
He is in you and you are in him. Wherever you go, he goes. When you go to the parent-teacher interview, the Lord of the Universe goes with you.
“Wait a second, Paul. How can Jesus be here with us if he’s up there with the Father?” That’s a good question. How can Jesus be in two places at once? How can he be present within every believer at the same time?
Before Jesus returned to heaven, he said to the disciples: “It is for your good that I go away” (John 16:7). Jesus said the Comforter would come after he left and we would be better off with him than we were with Jesus being physically present. He was saying, “I have been with you, and that has been good, but soon I will be in you, and that will be even better.”
The Holy Spirit is the answer to the question, “How can Jesus leave us and be with us at the same time?” Since the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, to be filled with the Spirit is to be filled with Jesus. And since he who has the Son also has the Father, to be filled with Jesus is to be filled with the Father as well. He who has the Spirit also has the Son and the Father. They are an inseparable team (Rom 8:9, Col 2:9, and John 14:20).
Right after promising the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans.” An orphan is a fatherless child. Jesus was saying you won’t be that person. “My Father and I will come to you and make our home with you” (see John 14:23). You have not been filled with one-third of God but all of him; Father, Son, and Spirit.
The gospel of union
Perhaps you originally came to Christ on account of some need. It may have been a need for healing, forgiveness, or simply to get a ticket in to heaven. Whatever your need, God is faithful and generous. Receive from the abundant provision of his grace and be blessed. But then brace yourself for a blessed shock. The Giver is greater than his gifts. The Blesser is infinitely lovelier than his blessings.
The gospel is not an advertising brochure for the treasures of the kingdom. The gospel is the thrilling revelation that the Lover of your soul desires to share his life in wedded union with you forever. For those who believe it, the gospel is the joyful declaration that right now and forever more, you are in perfect union with him. Your days of restless wandering are over, for in Christ you have already found your eternal rest. In Christ, you are already home.
Extracted from chapter 4 “Union,” The Gospel in Ten Words.