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§ 47. (4.) The Mystical Union.

The Holy Scriptures assert that God dwells in the believer, and express by this a peculiar union of God with him, which Dogmatics distinguish as a mystical union. This takes place at the instant in which man is justified and regenerated, and is inseparably united with justification and regeneration, so that, as we associate with justification the forgiveness of sins, and with regeneration the power to believe, so in the mystical union we describe the direct operation of both these acts of divine grace, which consists in this, that God makes His abode in a peculiar manner in the justified or regenerate. [1] By this mystical union more is expressed than a mere agreement of the will of man with the will of God, or a mere union of both in love, or a mere influence and communication of spiritual gifts on the part of the Holy Ghost. [2] The passages, John 14:23; 1 Cor. 6:15, 17; Eph. 5:30; 2 Pet. 1:4; Gal. 3:27; 2:19, 20, prove, moreover, that this union is not merely figurative, but literal and actual, so that it cannot be described otherwise than as the union of the substance of God with the substance of man, in consequence of which God pours out the fulness of His gracious gifts upon the regenerate. [3] It is therefore carefully to be distinguished from that indwelling which is mentioned in Acts 17:28; for, although in this passage a substantial union of God with man is expressed, it must be of a different character from the other, as the one is common to all creatures, the other belongs to believers. Therefore the one, as a special union, is distinguished from the other as a general union. [4] This union is characterized further as a “mystical union (because it is a great mystery (Eph. 5:32), the specific mode of which is unsearchable), also as spiritual (since it is brought about not in a carnal or corporeal, but in 481a spiritual and supernatural manner, by the Holy Spirit graciously dwelling in the regenerate).” HOLL. (934). As we are unable to give a more specific representation of the nature and manner of this union, we limit ourselves to the removal of erroneous views of it. It would be wrong to suppose that in this union the two substances, the divine and the human, are united in such a manner that the two substances become one, or that the one is absorbed in the other; or, as if out of the two persons, God and man, one person were constituted, as in the case of the two natures in Christ. The mystical union is therefore not a substantial [5] and not a personal union. [6]

[1] In regard to the order in which the mystical union follows upon the preceding regeneration and justification, QUEN. (III, 621): “Regeneration, justification, union, and renovation are simultaneous, and, being more closely united than the ingredients of an atom (quovis puncto mathematico arctiores), so cohere that they cannot be separated or rent asunder. Yet, according to our mode of conceiving of them, justification and regeneration are prior in order to the mystical union. For when in regeneration, a man receives faith, and by faith is justified, then only does he begin to be mystically united to God. But renovation is subsequent to union, for from good works, which are the effects of renovation, the existence of both justification and the mystical union is inferred, a posteriori; therefore they follow each other in this order, according to our conception. Regeneration precedes, that faith may be attained. Justification follows, which is of faith. The mystical union then occurs, which is succeeded by renovation and sanctification.”

According to another mode of considering this, it may be said that union precedes justification inasmuch as faith precedes justification; and in faith, as the organ by which the union is effected, its beginning is already presupposed. Therefore HOLL. (933), after consenting to this view, adds: “Although the mystical union, by which God dwells in the soul as in a temple, may, according to our mode of conception, follow justification in the order of nature, it is however to be acknowledged that the formal union of faith, by which Christ is apprehended, put on, and united with us, as the mediator and the author of grace and pardon, logically precedes justification. For faith is imputed for righteousness, so far as this receives the merit of Christ, and so unites it with ourselves as to make it ours.”

The union may be conceived as an act, inasmuch as it takes 482place instantaneously, and is then more particularly to be defined as a uniting (unitio) “or the act of union, which is transient and momentary, and takes place at the same time with regeneration and justification;” or, “as a state, which is properly and specifically called union (unio), and remains unbroken as long as the justified person avoids voluntary sins.”

[2] QUEN. (III, 623): “The mystical union does not consist merely in the harmony and tempering of the affections, as when the soul of Jonathan is said to be united to David, 1 Sam. 18:1, but in a true, real, literal, and most intimate union; for Christ, John 17:21, uses the phrase, ‘to be in some one,’ which implies the real presence of the thing which is said to be in, not figuratively, as a lover in the beloved. The mystical union does not consist alone in the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit in believers. For when Christ says, John 14:23, ‘I and my Father,’ etc., and 5:15, ‘the Holy Spirit,’ etc., these are not names of operations but persons. And it is entirely wanton to convert such emphatic words, expressing a reality (υπαρκτικα), by which this mystical union is described, into mere energetic expressions (ενεργητικα); for example, to come, to be sent into hearts, to dwell, to remain, to live in any one. For these are personal properties, and not attributes of operations.”

[3] HOLL. (932) defines: “The mystical union is the spiritual conjunction of the triune God with justified man, by which He dwells in him as in a consecrated temple by His special presence, and that, too, substantial, and operates in the same by His gracious influence.” QUEN. (III, 622): “The mystical union is the real and most intimate conjunction of the substance of the Holy Trinity and the God-man Christ with the substance of believers, effected by God Himself through the Gospel, the Sacraments, and faith, by which, through a special approximation of His essence, and by a gracious operation, He is in them, just as also believers are in Him; that, by a mutual and reciprocal immanence they may partake of His vivifying power and all His mercies, become assured of the grace of God and eternal salvation, and preserve unity in the faith and love with the other members of His mystical body.” While QUEN. thus, already in his definition of the mystical union, incorporates with it union with Christ, the God-man, CAL. (X, 526) distinguishes between the spiritual union of the regenerate with the triune God and the conjunction with Christ, the God-man; and he thus defines the latter: “The mystical union of Christ with the believer is a true and real and most intimate conjunction of the divine and human nature of the theanthropic Christ with a regenerated 483man, which is effected by the virtue of the merit of Christ through the Word and Sacraments; so that Christ constitutes a spiritual unit with the regenerated person, and operates in and through him, and those things which the believer does or suffers He appropriates to Himself, so that the man does not live, as to his spiritual and divine life, of himself, but by the faith of the Son of God, until he is taken to heaven.” And he specifies, as the accompaniments and consequences of the mystical union of believers with Christ (p. 568), “A spiritual anointing; the designation of Christians [the anointed] taken from this; the mystical espousal with Christ. The mystical anointing is that by which the regenerate, having been consecrated to the Holy Spirit by virtue of Christ’s anointing, have been furnished with His gifts as spiritual prophets, priests, and kings. (P. 572): The espousal of Christ with believers is that by which He eternally marries Himself to believers through faith, so that they become one spirit, and by His power communicates to them, as to His spiritual bride, intimate and enduring love, all His blessings and all His glory, so as finally to lead them to His home, and dwell with them in His celestial and eternal kingdom.” The FORM. CONC. hints at the mystical union when (Sol. Dec., III, 65) it designates as false the assertion that “not God Himself, but only the gifts of God, dwell in believers.” The extremes or limits of the mystical union are then thus defined: “The essence of the subjects to be united are, on the one part, the divine substance of the whole Trinity, 2 Pet. 1:4, and the substance of the human nature of Christ, John 15:1, 2, 4; 1 Cor. 6:15-17; Eph. 5:30; Gal. 2:19, 20; on the other part, the substance of believers, as to body and soul, 1 Cor. 6:15, 19; Eph. 5:30.” The form of this union consists “in a true, real, intrinsic, and most close conjunction of the substance of the believer with the substance of the Holy Trinity and the flesh of Christ.” QUEN. (III, 619) proves the Mystical Union “(1) from the promise of Christ, John 14:23, 26; 15:26. But formally to come to any one, denotes accession and approximation to him, and thus the advent of the sacred Trinity to believers, and the presence not only of His gifts, but likewise of His essence itself. (2) From the indwelling in believers, Eph. 3:17; Rom. 8:9; 2 Cor. 6:16. (3) From the unity of believers with God, John 17:21. The gradation which Christ uses in this place indicates that the spiritual union, whereby He (v. 23) is in believers, is more intimate than that by which the believers (v. 21) are one with God through the communion of the Spirit; and likewise in the mode and form it differs from that which is described in v. 22, where believers are said to be one with 484each other on account of the unity of faith, love, and hope, for there is superadded a full statement of the consummation (which He explains in the words: ‘I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.’). (4) From the partaking of the divine nature, 2 Pet. 1:4.”

This Mystical Union is further described in the Holy Scriptures by the expressions: the espousal of believers with Christ, Hos. 2:19; the mystical marriage of Christ and the Church, Eph. 5:32; the union of the members and of the Head, Eph. 1:22, 23; the insertion of the spiritual branches in the spiritual vine, Christ, John 15:4-7; the abiding of the whole Trinity with regenerate man, John 14:23.

[4] CAL. (X, 511): “Although we do not admit an essential union after the manner of a graft that coalesces in one numerical essence with the trunk of the tree, yet we think that here there takes place not only that common union of men with the substance of God of which we are told in Acts 17:28, nor only a union of human substance and accident, or operations, and of the divine movements; but we assert that the substance of the believer is united with the substance of the entire Holy Trinity through a conjunction of substance to substance, without extension or contraction of the divine or human essence, by a change of manner only, which according to God’s gracious will is different in this life from what it will be in eternal life.”

HOLL. (933): “The general union is that whereby all believers and unbelievers live and move and have their being in God. As fishes in water and birds in the air, so all men live and move and are in God, because He gives to all life and breath and all things.” QUEN. (III, 614): “The general union of all men with the substance of God the Creator is indicated in Acts 17:28, where the preposition ‘in’ expresses the general presence of god with men. Hugo Grotius explains the particle εν by a Hebraism, so that in Him would be by Him, by His favor. But there is no necessity of departing from its ordinary acceptation. For neither is the origin only expressed, that we are of Him, but in addition the divine περιχωρησις, that in Him we live and move and are.”

The special union is partly “a gracious one, in the Church Militant, whereby God dwells in the regenerate by His substantial presence, and operates in them by His special concurrence, John 14:23; 17:11, 21;” and partly a “glorious one, in the triumphant assembly of the elect, whereby God fills and delights the elect with the plentitude of His grace. 1 Cor. 15:28.” HOLL. (933). As, therefore, in the general union there is likewise assumed a connection 485of the divine substance with man, and not merely a gracious operation, the special union is distinguished from it in this way, that in it a new approximation of the divine essence and one different from the omnipresence is assumed, “which is so limited to the believer that the divine substance cannot be said to be present in this way to the wicked and other creatures; and thus the manner of the presence in this union is expressed by a new approximation of the substance.” In reply to the objection: “Whatever as to its substance is already present, while it is present, is necessarily present and cannot be absent, and, therefore, it cannot be said that it comes, draws nigh, or approximates by its substance anew. But, as the Holy Trinity as to is substance or the divine essence by the common and general presence, is already present to all creatures, and thus also to believers; therefore He cannot approach them by a new and special presence,” QUEN. answers (III, 629): “(1) The substance of the Holy Spirit willed to unite itself in a peculiar manner of presence with the dove, and thus to manifest itself to the Baptist, so that where the dove might be, there it could correctly and truly be said that the substance of the Holy Spirit was present in that peculiar kind of presence. (2) That the divine essence, as essence, could admit of such an approximation without the danger of its losing immensity, the peculiar mode of its presence in Christ proves, in whom the divine nature is so united to the finite human nature, that in this way it neither is nor wishes to be anywhere else; which presence is determined, certainly not by a new mode of operating, cut by the intimate immanence of one near substance in another. And although this presence is very peculiar, yet it cannot be denied, because it may be deduced from the hypostatical union, that such an approximation is not entirely repugnant to the divine essence.” And the position is constantly maintained, that, as the union in general is not a mere gracious operation of the Holy Spirit, so the special union does not differ from the general merely by a new and special mode of operating, but by a new approximation of the essence, and that distinct from the common mode of presence.

[5] QUEN. (III, 624): “This union does not consist in transubstantiation, or the conversion of our substance into the substance of God and of Christ, or vice versa, as the rod of Moses was converted into a serpent. Nor in consubstantiation, so that of two united essences there is formed one substance.” HOLL. (939): “(a) God dwells in us as in temples, by the favor of the mystical union, 1 Cor. 3:16; but the habitation is not changed into the inhabitant nor the inhabitant into the habitation; (b) By the mystical union 486we put on Christ, Gal. 3:27; but the garment is not essentially one with the person who wears it. (c) The divine nature is very distinct from the human, although God comes to us and makes His abode with us, John 14:23, for He can depart from man to whom He has come. The mystical union is, therefore, indeed, called a union of substances, but, strictly taken, not a formal substantial union (such as is that of a graft which coalesces with the trunk into the essence of the tree numerically one), but it is an accidental union. If, then, it be called a substantial union, as by many, it is not “from the mode of union, but from the result attained, because a human substance is united to a divine.”

[6] QUEN. (III, 624): “The mystical union does not consist in a personal union or a coalition of extremes united into one hypostasis or person, such as in the union of the divine and human nature in Christ; so that the believer, united to Christ, could say, I am Christ.” HOLL. (939): “Paul teaches that Christ and believers being mystically united remain distinct persons, Gal. 2:20.” QUEN. (III, 624) adds: “The mystical union differs from the sacramental union and communion. The antithesis here is that of: (1) The Weigelians and Schwenkfeldian, who maintain that the mystical union with God, as to its mode, is essential and corporeal. (2) That of some Scholastics, Papists, Socinians, and Arminians, who deny that God remains in believers by a special mode of substantial presence.” HOLL. (941).

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