Thursday, May 28, 2009

Banner of Truth 2009 -- Union owth Christ: Gospel Implications by Sinclair Ferguson (Session #7)

Union with Christ: Gospel Implications – Sinclair Ferguson

Colossians 3:1-17

The theme is found throughout the letter and 2:6-7 “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” is sort of the start of this section. The life lived in Christ is one filled with a spirited atmosphere of thanksgiving. That sort of joyful thanksgiving should mark us and our ministry.
Probably the best known verse from Paul on union with Christ is 2 cor 5:17. If any in Christ, new creation, old gone, new come. This speaks of a total change and entering into a new reality, a new order. Paul is exploring this glorious transformation, life in the new order, life in the new creation. Fro the moment the new creation has a kind of interwoveness with the old creation. Hence, Paul seeks to encourage them to live more and more in the new order while still living in Colossi. As you live out your new life in the setting of the old order there is a perpetual tension, warfare, groaning. This is true even as the believer progressively overcomes, there is still an ongoing struggle.
Paul is concerned that the progress of grace in sanctification should not be falsely short circuited by things like do not handle, do not taste, do not touch. Paul wants real progress, but that progress is learning the language of the gospel. It takes time like learning any new language.
He was speaking about what has been called the two states of Jesus Christ. His humiliation all the way to death, followed by the glorious exaltation of the Lord Jesus in his resurrection, ascension, and coming again. Paul longs that people see Christ in his majesty and glory. Since the Christ we are united to was humbled and exalted we come to share in his humiliation and exaltation while not doing so in a saving sense.
Paul in these verses speaks about a mortification and a vivification of the Christian believer in Christ. We are bound to him, who has taken his resurrected body to the right hand of the Father, person to person, embodied person to embodied person. There is an external and an internal mortification and vivification. We share in his sufferings that we may share in his glory. Internally we share in the mortification by putting to death the old flesh, and put on the new life in Christ.
We as pastors stand as living models of this. The whole of our lives are going to be fitted into this pattern. Understanding this can be a glorious release seeing the pattern in the providence God is working in our life. This can bring extraordinary fruitfulness. This is modeled in Calvin, his sufferings seeing God transformation of him into the likeness of his Son. To see those who caused his sufferings as being used by God to polish him in grace.
There is a need for understanding external mortification. In chapter 1:24, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,” He is not saying that there is something lacking in the saving work of Jesus Christ. But instead he is point to his own personal participation in Jesus Christ, in union with Christ, and these are part of his stewardship for the church. Paul teaches this in many places. In 2 Corinthians 1 how his despair even unto death was used by God.
Many sufferings are completely inexplicable in this world. The reason is they have no relation to this world. Job's suffering is a good example. His sufferings have to do with something beyond this world. We know the heavenly scene, but as far as we know, Job never knew. There is suffering in this world thats only interpretation comes outside of this world.
Yet for a Christian there is something different that allows them to embrace these sufferings. This amazing principle that in our union with Christ death works in us that life might work in you (2 Corinthians 4). When Christians are suffering and don't know why, we need to point them to accepting the stewardship of that suffering that the life of Jesus might be seen in them by others. In our union with Christ we are often weak in him.
This whole way of thinking in Paul seems to be one of the clearest evidences that the experience of Paul on the Damascus road was not just a call but a conversion. The line of thought that sees that event as only a call, not a conversion is wrong. Hints of this are found throughout Paul's letter and the accounts in Acts. In his persecution of the church starting to be recorded with the kill of Stephen and the Damascus road he saw that all of Christ's people are so united to him that to persecute them is to persecute Christ, and that death worked in Stephen that life might work in Saul.
This has nothing to do with us screwing ourselves up and saying I must suffer more. No this suffering is in the hands of God. Instead it is seeing that our union with Christ will have both an internal and an external manifestation. So that we can find comfort even in our sufferings, and even those sufferings show us that God is working in us in our sufferings bringing life.
Internal mortification and vivification can be seen in a symphony in four movements. First there is orientation, second mortification, third transformation, fourth disposition.

People often want an single answer to very difficult questions. We need to work harder at re-orienting their thinking. Our minds need to be reconfigured to think in the right patterns. It is hard work getting that way of thinking in place. That only comes are we and others are saturated by the Bible being sanctified in the truth. That is why Calvin would preach 5 times a week so the word would sink deep in and people would start to have their understanding oriented properly by the Word of God. The secret of holy living is in the mind not the emotions or other places. (Stott) Seek things above and set mind on things above. The resources for this must be fed into our mind because we do not have these resources in us. This new orientation needs to go down so deep that we understand that we have died, risen with Christ and our life is really hidden with him.

We could spend the rest of our time on this. To do so would be unbalanced. Paul works through the various spheres of human sins: private, public. These must be put off. While in Christ these things linger on and need to be dealt with. What Paul is doing is encouraging Christians to name sin for what it really is, not just say we are failing a little bit. More, he encourages them to look at it from God's perspective v6. Then, remember you are a new person. Then he says act decisively—just do it.

Never mortification with out this. The two go together. We need the power of a new affection, putting on those graces that make the atmosphere of our lives suffocating to our old nature. Be like Jesus. How? By being joined to him him you can. The problem here is your will, your sloth.

Lets the word of Christ dwell in you richly. We need to be word saturated people. Worship that destroys idolatry—teach and admonish on another as we sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Let thankfulness dominate your activity, and realize Christ is all and in all. It is all about Christ.


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