Union with Christ

Many sermons emphasize the Substitutionary side of the Cross, but we desperately need to hear more about the Representative side of Calvary. Christ not only died for us, He died as us. When He died, we died. When He was buried, we were buried. When Christ rose from the dead, we were co-resurrected with Him. When He ascended into heaven we ascended with Him. The glorious truth is all believers are “in Christ” and Christ is “in us.” This reciprocal indwelling is proclaimed in Colossians three and throughout the New Testament.

Ian Thomas said, “The death of Jesus for you makes possible the life of Jesus in you.” Christianity is the only “faith” where God takes up residence in His followers. While eternally grateful for the good news offered to sinners, we must embrace the gospel for the saints. This really is “good news!”


Colossians chapter three unveils this mystery of our identification, or union, with Christ. A Christian is united with Christ…

  • If ye then be risen with Christ (3:1)
  • For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God (3:3)
  • When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory (3:4)

Talk about an exalted position! Since we are “in Christ”, we are risen with Him, and our life is hidden with Christ. We are where He is because we are risen with Him. We are in Him, and He is in us. Christ is the source, sustenance, and summation of the Christian life. He does not merely give life, or share His life—HE IS OUR LIFE!

Ponder this truth; our first parent Adam sinned and brought spiritual death to all his descendants. He passed on his legacy leaving us with a sinful nature and a corresponding death sentence. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). When He sinned we sinned because we were “in Adam.” From him we inherited his corrupted nature, and alienation from God. Consequently, we were all born sinners. Our destiny was eternal death (separation from God) because of our identification with Adam’s sin.

But the gospel changed everything! Christ not only took our sin to the Cross, He took us to the Cross with Him! Rom 6:6 states—that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed…Paul said the same in Galatians 2:20—“I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.”

I know this is a lot to take in, but we were Co-crucified (you are dead Col. 3:3)… Co-planted (buried with him Col. 2:12)… and Co-resurrected (risen with Him Col. 2:12, 3:1).

If any man be in Christ he is a brand new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). This means saved individuals have a new birth certificate, a new nature, a new identity, and a new heavenly position. And our heavenly position calls for divine aspiration.


Since you are “risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (3:1). Next we are instructed to set our affections (minds) on things above, and not on things on the earth (3:2). Our focus on heavenly things fits our hearts for the pursuit. The pursuit of a believer is continuous—keep on seeking. We are called to learn of the riches we have in Christ. We are to seek and discover the multi-faceted dimensions of our union with the Lord Jesus. So much happened in this divine exchange that it demands our attention and diligent study. Christ pursued us when He came “to seek and to save.” Now we are charged to pursue Him!

When you know your Position “in Christ” then you can embark on a life-long quest of becoming who you really are—in Christ! Spiritual growth is just becoming in Practice what you already are in Position. It is not a matter of attaining through effort or performance, but acknowledging and accepting what Christ has already done on our behalf. Too often we pray for things we already possess. His divine power has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness (see 2 Pet. 1:3). We already have everything we will ever need “in Him.”

This is where appropriation comes into play. By faith we must take what the Scriptures teach and act on it. Instead of listening to our feelings or looking at our circumstances, we must accept the Bible facts about our union with Christ. And because the Bible is clear about our crucifixion, burial, and resurrection with Christ; we must daily acknowledge and appropriate these truths. Spiritual growth is a process based upon these identification truths. We need not look for an improved life because we already have an exchanged life—“not I but Christ!” Seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness is our heavenly pursuit. And our heavenly position and pursuit will certainly impact our conduct on earth.


Union with Christ is not just a theory. It is a very practical reality. Colossians two makes clear that believers have died to the world and former religious systems. Implementation and application are attached to these vital doctrines. The Spirit-filled life is not a passive, or uninvolved activity. It is a daily walk with down-to-earth implications. Keeping in step with the Spirit produces heavenly living in an earthly setting.

Paul gives us two lists of things to “put off.” In my opinion these should be viewed as directives for our obedience as God’s children. Some behaviors are consistent with our position in Christ, and some are not. The apostle tells us point blank to deliver to death the earthliness that is in us. In plain language he tells us to get to the business of killing sin: immorality, impurity, evil desires, and covetousness (see Col. 3:5).

But he does not stop there. He further says, “put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:8-10). Since we died with Christ, we died to sin. To allow and engage in these sins would contradict our identity in Christ. The basis of the Christian life is living out the Christ Life that was birthed in us at the moment of salvation.

Our text says we have “put off the old man.” The reason we put off the old man is because it was crucified (rendered inoperative) on Christ’s cross. At the moment of salvation we became partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4) which displaced the “old man.” The “new man” is the new you, where Christ Himself resides internally and purifies your personality. His righteousness has been imputed and imparted. The redeemed are now in God’s family, and joint-heirs with Christ. And Christ Himself is our very life.

Practice and Pursuit both rest on our perfect Heavenly Position. Peter exhorts, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). Why would he encourage believers to “grow in grace…”? Because our active cooperation is required. This is not some mystical, or automatic consequence of our union with Christ. We must live out the heavenly life within us by “walking” in the power of the Spirit.

Growth in grace happens when our practice catches up to our position. In essence, we are becoming what we became at the time of our conversion. Isn’t this absolutely fantastic! Christ is the end of the struggle for righteousness to all who embrace Him as LIFE. Good news… INDEED!

Harold Vaughan


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Harold Vaughan

View posts by Harold Vaughan
Evangelist Harold Vaughan is the founder of Christ Life Ministries, Inc. To date, his ministry has led him to preach in forty-eight states and many foreign countries. Click on "ABOUT" in the menu bar to learn more about Harold.
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