Studies in the Epistle to the Colossians Part VII: The Complete Sufficiency of Union with Christ -- By: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 120:477 (Jan 1963)
Article: Studies in the Epistle to the Colossians Part VII: The Complete Sufficiency of Union with Christ
Author: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.


Studies in the Epistle to the Colossians
Part VII:
The Complete Sufficiency of Union with Christ

S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Of Colossians 2:4–3:4 Professor C. F. D. Moule has written: “This section contains (quite incidentally, and as a by-product of the argument) one of the most important of St. Paul’s descriptions of what is achieved by the death of Christ, and one of his most emphatic reiterations of the theme of the incorporation of believers in Christ.”1 We may add to these significant words that the two matters, the achievements of the death of Christ and the incorporation of believers into Him, are vitally related as cause and effect. The achievements are made the possession of believers by the divine activity of uniting them to Him at the moment of the exercise of genuine faith.

The importance of the Pauline emphasis on union with Christ is, therefore, obvious.2 We must not be placed in the position of deploring the Reforniation’s stress on sola fide, or sola gratia. The well-rounded battle cry of the reformers, Sola fides justificat, sed non fides quae est sola, is too necessary and important to neglect. But have we not overlooked in the stress of polemics the great Pauline emphasis on union with Christ? Would not this necessary aspect of New Testament doctrine have delivered us from the tendency to overemphasize the sterilely intellectual and gloss over the warmly personal. The result has been in some quarters that deadness and dryness have replaced the Pauline vitality and freshness. And furthermore, out of this has arisen a criticism of propositional truth itself,3 a criticism which may not be entirely invalid

when truth is seen only as cold fact. The concept of union with Christ, made real in personal experience, takes lifeless theory out of refrigeration and sets it in the full blaze of the warmth of intimate fellowship with the Son of God.

If this be true, then Colossians 2:11–15, the passage to which we have come in our studies, is an important section of the epistle, since here is the heart of Paul’s thinking concerning union with Christ and its effects.

2. The believer’s circumcision (2:11–12 ).

11 in whom also you were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body4 of th...

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