Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


The Crucifixion of Ministry 5

posted by xscot mcknight

Union with Christ, Andrew Purves argues in his book, The Crucifixion of Ministry, is “a key doctrine for practical theology and the faithful practice of ministry” (100). How does union with Christ work out for ministry?
Purves draws here on a sermon his wife, Cathy, preached. Rooted in Phil 3:12-14 (“I press on…”) she speaks of the famous book many of us read as kids and read to our kids, The Little Engine That Could. It’s the Protestant Work Ethic story.
But what Paul wants here is to know Christ, to run behind Christ, Christ crossing the finish line … it is about Christ doing for us.
If Christ’s humanity is vicarious, then our need is simply to be in union with the Big Engine That Did (that’s my play on Cathy’s image). It is about participation, not imitation.
Galatians 2:20 (“not I but Christ”) teaches the same. Union with Christ is the whole. Then Galatians 4:6 that God sent his Son and the Spirit. And then to John 15:1-11 that we abide in Christ.
Union leads to transformation of mind, conversion of the will, and amendment of life,.



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Rick

posted November 29, 2007 at 8:25 am


“But what Paul wants here is to know Christ, to run behind Christ, Christ crossing the finish line ? it is about Christ doing for us.” Great thoughts!
Thanks for addressing this topic.
Andy Stanley at Nortpoint has done a terrific sermon on abiding that speaks to this.
Abiding is a huge aspect of our walk with Christ and one that seems to be overlooked all too often.
The term “union” always reminds me of the powerful writings of Christian mystics of old.



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Ivy Gauvin

posted November 29, 2007 at 10:09 am


That’s what it’s all about. Luther would be so proud. We are utterly unable in ourselves to do anything to further our spiritual growth. It’s all grace.



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Howard Walters

posted November 29, 2007 at 10:21 am


Ivy, I’m not at all sure I accept this as I understand your expression. While we certainly are enlivened by the work of God, our progress in spiritual growth or not is a choice he leaves to us through our embrace of the disciplined life that Jesus modeled. He will not do this for us. Dallas Willard’s excellent book on the Spriritual Disciplines traces this out very well. We are called to live the life Jesus lived, and in doing this, we become the man he was through the grace of God working in our hearts and lives and bodies. Spiritual growth is not a meta-physical or miraculous occurance. It is the ordinary result of living a disciplined life in love of God and for others.



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Bob Smallman

posted November 29, 2007 at 11:51 am


“It is about participation, not imitation.”
This, for me, was one of the great insights of Purvis’ book. Intellectually, I think I finally more or less understand the concept of being “in Christ,” but I’m not sure I’ve always digested it in terms of my practice.
And, by the way, this is my one [very minor] disappointment with the book — he does a great job of explaining the Biblical doctrine of union with Christ, but I kept wishing he would flesh out what that looks in ministry. He tries, especially in the closing chapter, but left me hoping for more. (I’d give some specifics, but I’ve already loaned this great book to a colleague!)



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Ted M. Gossard

posted November 29, 2007 at 2:11 pm


So simple yet so profound, and I’m afraid largely lost on us.
If we could just get a hold of this like some have, starting with Paul.



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Doug Wilson

posted November 29, 2007 at 4:26 pm


“If Christ?s humanity is vicarious, then our need is simply to be in union with the Big Engine That Did…. It is about participation, not imitation.” I love this, Scot. It reminded me of the publisher’s blurb about Michael Gorman’s new book, Reading Paul (Cascade Books, Wipf & Stock), which seems to sound a similar tone: “Gorman…offers a distinctive interpretation of justification by faith as participation in Christ ” (emphasis mine). Andy Johnson, in his endorsement of Gorman’s book, say “His lucid exposition of justification as grace-enabled co-crucifixion and co-resurrection with Christ demonstrates keen exegetical and theological acumen and is worth the price of the book” (emphasis mine). On the basis of these statements I purchased Gorman’s book, although I’m not far into it yet.



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BeckyR

posted November 29, 2007 at 4:31 pm


Scot wrote: “our need is simply to be in union with the Big Engine That Did. It is about participation, not imitation.
Galatians 2:20 (?not I but Christ?) teaches the same. Union with Christ is the whole. Then Galatians 4:6 that God sent his Son and the Spirit. And then to John 15:1-11 that we abide in Christ.
Union leads to transformation of mind, conversion of the will, and amendment of life.”
But union with Christ and the Spirit’s participation in our life already is happening once we take Christ as our Savior. We don’t put ourselves into Union. We might get to a point of seeing the Union going on and then seeing we are participants in it. But even then it is the Spirit’s work in our lives that our eyes will be opened in this one of many categories to christian living. It is not us that put us in Union with Christ. We already are in Union with Christ. We may be able to stop some of our futile self attempts at living the life. But even then, being able to stop them comes from the Spirit’s enabling in our life. (oh no, I’m sounding like a Calvinist!) I think my point has been made.



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David B Johnson

posted November 29, 2007 at 10:18 pm


Scot,
Does Purves mention, or do you see the Eucharist as being a significant way the Christian experiences union with Christ?



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Scot McKnight

posted November 29, 2007 at 10:27 pm


David,
Yes. It’s important.



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Nicholas Kinnier

posted November 30, 2007 at 12:25 am


not to be an exegetical killjoy, but imitation is a consistent thematic vein running throughout Philippians. Paul sets Christ out in 2.6-11 to be the ultimate example of Christian praxis which the Philippians are to imitate. However, it certainly can be said that “union with Christ” is also a significant theme in Philippians which makes me wonder if the ideas of imitation and union were to some degree synonymous for Paul. Interesting stuff, it looks like I might need to add another book to the Christmas list…



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Jonas Borntreger

posted November 30, 2007 at 6:58 am


“union with Christ”
A yoke is a device for connecting various sources of energy (Horses, etc.) together and to a load. Jesus invites us to take ‘His yoke’ and learn from him. He said, his yoke was “easy.” When my dad farmed with horses, he would hitch a new horse to an ‘unequal yoke,’a device for attaching horses in such a way that the unexperienced animal bore less of the load.
Jesus does not ask me to carry the same load that he did. He does ask that I stay attached and that I stay in step with him. JJB



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Scott M

posted November 30, 2007 at 7:20 am


Jonas, as I understand it, adopting the teaching of a rabbi was commonly described as taking on their yoke. In its context, that perhaps should be considered, especially as Jesus elsewhere accuses the leaders and teachers of placing heavy burdens on the people. Further, I would suggest a parallel passage to this one is his picture that we must daily take up our cross and follow him. The cross had a well-established symbolic meaning already in his day. You would pick up the instrument of your death and carry it to the place of your execution. We have a great deal then to do. Yet strangely, as we learn to turn from our self-willed and directed way of doing life and as we learn to “die” to our passions, to cease to be ruled by them, we find the yoke of the cross is strangely easy and that what looks like death is actually freedom and life.



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