“Having become one plant with Him.”
Having discussed regeneration as God’s act wrought in a lost, wicked, and guilty sinner, we now examine the more sacred and delicate question: How does this divine act affect our relation to Christ?
We consider this point more important than the first, since every view of regeneration that does not do full justice to the “mystical union with Christ” is anti-Scriptural, eradicates brotherly love, and begets spiritual pride.
The holy apostle declares: “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.”
The Scriptural expressions, “one plant with Him”† 2
and “branches of the Vine,” which must be taken in their fullest significance, are metaphors entirely different from those which we use. We are confined to metaphors which express our meaning by analogy; but they can not be fully applied nor express the being of the thing; hence the so-called third term of the comparison. But the figures used by the Holy Spirit express a real conformity, a unity of thought divinely expressed in the spiritual and visible world. Hence Jesus could say: “I am the true Vine,”
Being exceedingly sober and choice in His metaphorical speech, the Lord Jesus does not say that a branch is grafted into the vine,
And yet the figure is only partly applicable. Indeed, in
For, notice it well, the figure is not to be pressed too far. It is a mistake to make it refer to the regeneration of the individual sinner. For a person once implanted in Christ can not be severed from Him: “No man can pluck them out of My hand”
And yet, reference is made here to branches which are broken off and which were grafted in again. If this referred to particular individuals, then the Jews, who during the life of St. Paul denied the Lord, must have been regenerate persons who fell away and returned again before they died.
If this had been St. Paul’s meaning, subsequent events would have belied his words, and he would have revoked the whole tenor of his other teachings. But he plainly means that the tribes of Israel, who were in the Covenant of Grace, had lost their position therein by their own fault; yet that even outside of the Covenant they should be preserved throughout the coming ages, and that in the course of history the way would be opened even for them to be reintroduced into the Covenant of Grace. And this shows that
It may be objected that in
We arrive, therefore, at this conclusion, that neither
It is unnecessary to say that not a few exegetes judge the translation, “One plant with Him,” incorrect, omitting the words italicized. We do not express here an opinion regarding this rendering; but it shows clearly that
In fact, Scripture never applies the figure of grafting to regeneration.
And yet this union with Christ must be strongly emphasized. The theologians who represent divine truth most purely lay most stress upon this matter. And altho Calvin may have been the most
But it is wrong on this ground to teach—as some of our younger ministers are reported to teach—and derogatory to the work of the Holy Spirit, that regeneration accomplishes nothing in us, and that the whole work is performed completely outside of us as some have said, “That we need not even be converted, for even that has been done for us vicariously by the Lord Jesus Christ.” To say that there is no difference between a regenerate person and an unregenerate is to contradict Scripture and to deny the work of the Holy Spirit. Wherefore we strongly oppose this notion. There is indeed a difference. The former has entered into the union with Christ, and the latter has not. And upon this union everything depends; it makes a difference in men, as between heaven and hell.
Nor may it be said, on the contrary, “That a regenerate person, even without the union with Christ, is other or better than an unbeliever”; for this puts asunder what God has joined together. Outside of Christ there is in man born of a woman nothing but darkness, corruption, and death.
Hence we firmly maintain the indissoluble oneness of these two: “There is no regeneration without establishing, the mystical union with Christ”; and again: “There is no mystical union with Immanuel but in the regenerate.” These two may never be separated; and on the long way between the first act of regeneration and completed sanctification, the unio mystica may not for a moment be lost sight of.
The Ethical theologians will probably assent to all that we have said on this subject; and yet, according to our deepest conviction, they have wholly bastardized and misapprehended this precious article of faith. Assuredly they strongly emphasize the union with Christ; they even tell us that they do this more than we, maintaining that it is immaterial whether a man is sound in the Scripture or not so long as he is united with Christ. In that case there is no more need of any formula, confession, articles of faith, or even faith in the Scripture. A prominent Ethical professor at the University of Utrecht has openly declared: “Altho I should lose the entire Scripture, yea, tho the truth of not one of the Gospel narratives could be verified, I would not be in the least affected, for I would still possess union with Christ; and having that, what more can a man desire?” And this has such a pious ring, and taken in the abstract is so true, that many a conscience must agree with it, not having the faintest suspicion of the apostasy from the faith of the fathers contained in it.
If one should ask us whether we do not believe that the soul united with Jesus possesses all that can be desired, we would almost refuse an answer, for he knows better. No, indeed, favored soul, having that you need no more; depart in peace, thrice blessed of God.
But because the mystical union with the Son of God is so weighty and precious an article of faith, we desire that every man should treat it most seriously, and examine whether the union which he says he possesses is actually the same mystical union with the Lord Jesus Christ which the Scripture, promises to the children of God, and which they have enjoyed throughout the ages.
1 * St. Paul does not declare in these words that he received another ego; on the contrary, he says emphatically that in his ego, which continued to be his, it is no more I that live, but Christ.
2 † At least if the words “with Him” are original.
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