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Publication Date: 2013
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Regeneration, justification, sanctification. These are the primary words that come to mind when talking about the theology of salvation. However, the Bible teaches that each of these concepts is firmly rooted in something more foundational: our union with Christ. In this accessible book, Johnson introduces us to this neglected doctrine, arguing that it is the dominant organizing concept for salvation in the New Testament. In eight thought-provoking chapters, Johnson shows how a believers position "in Christ" is the lens through which other all other facets of salvation should be understood. Interacting extensively with the biblical text and drawing on lessons from church history, Johnson presents a compelling case for the unique importance of this beautiful, biblical doctrine.
-J. I. Packer,
Board of Governors' Professor of Theology, Regent College
Johnson has produced an excellent discussion of union with Christ. I am sure it will be consulted widely and contribute effectively to the churchs understanding of salvation.
Director of Research and Senior Lecturer in Systematic and Historical Theology, Wales Evangelical School of Theology; author, The Holy Trinity and Union with Christ
Evangelicals certainly love Jesus, but for too long they have loved him from a distance. He is the beloved man of the Gospels who did great deeds back then, or the glorious Christ who reigns on his throne up there. Marcus Johnson puts the Savior back where he belongs: in our midst as the one to whom we are truly united. This book is a timely reminder that our union with Christ is actual, mystical, and sacramental. Are we ready for that?
-Bryan M. Litfin,
Professor of Theology, Moody Bible Institute; author, The Sword, The Gift, and Getting to Know the Church Fathers
Inspired by the theology of John Calvin, evangelical Marcus Johnson offers up a timely and articulate manifesto on that most central of soteriological mysteries: union with Christ. Christ is beautiful, the gospel is beautiful, and at the heart of that beauty is the reality of our union with Christ by the Spirit. Johnson weaves together Biblical, theological, and pastoral theology into a rich tapestry, which deserves a wide reading.
Head of Carey Graduate School, Carey Baptist College, Auckland, New Zealand
This fine book rightly expounds union with Christ as the heart of Scriptures approach to the Christian life. Every aspect of Christian understanding is formed and informed by it; every aspect of faith, discipleship, and service radiates from it. Johnson reminds us that our proper preoccupation ought always to be the fostering of intimacy with Jesus Christ, who has been given to needy sinners for the sake of including them in his mercy and mission. This book will convince readers that all that the church believes, does, and aspires to coheres in our union with the One who remains the blessing, and whose including us in his life is the definitive truth of our lives.
Professor of Theology, Tyndale University College and Seminary; author, Interpreting Martin Luther and The Nature and Function of Faith in the Theology of John Calvin
Thoroughly biblical, historically informed, and practically challenging, Johnson confronts the misconception that Christians receive the benefits of the work of Christ without taking into account that we receive the person of Christ in faith. Most helpful are his sections on how the mystery of the believers union with Christ more fully explains our justification and sanctification. This is a compelling work for those in the church and the academy, and, if you are not careful, it might just change the way you think and talk about salvation.
Senior Pastor, Osterville Baptist Church, Osterville, Massachusetts
In this historically well-informed, theologically careful, and pastorally sensitive volume, Dr. Marcus Johnson seeks to remedy what he rightly calls the glaring omission of the theme of union with Christ in the soteriological understanding of the contemporary evangelical church. He convincingly demonstrates that the recovery of this central biblical theme helps us as Christians to understand better and more deeply the relation of Christs person and work, the church as the body of Christ, and the glorious unity of our salvation in Christ. I am happy to recommend this book as an important addition to the growing body of literature on this significant topic.
Eunice Witherspoon Bell Younts and Willie Camp Younts Professor of Bible, Erskine College
Johnson is a master mystery writer. Chapter by chapter he unfolds the mystery of our new life in Christ. He does not solve the mystery, but rather draws us into its wonders.
Senior Pastor, Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest, Illinois
Seeking the core of biblical Christianity, Marcus Johnson probes the understanding of salvation, focusing on restoring to keen awareness the reality of believers union in Christ as the essence and foundation of salvation. Pointed out among the factors contributing to the sad neglect of this essential doctrine is a too-timid fear of mystery and a too-bold confidence in reason. And in describing his own pilgrimage, Johnson considers persuasively that our union with Christ suffers from overemphasis on the work of Christ to the detriment of his person. Likewise, strong emphasis on the legal and forensic dimensions of justification has led to weak recognition of personal and participatory categories. Special care is paid to the salutary nature of the church. This book written from the heart speaks to the heart.
P. C. Rossin Professor of Church History, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The tendency in much contemporary evangelical thought is to view salvation as if it were the reception of an abstract and objectified commodity given on account of Christ yet apart from him, as if Christ were the agent and condition of our salvation, but not that salvation itself. Marcus Johnson demonstrates that this is neither the witness of the apostles nor the confession of the Protestant Reformers, who proclaimed salvation to be a life-giving, life-transforming participation in our incarnate substitute. Immensely important and timely, this volume provides a richly textured theology of salvation couched in the only context that allows soteriology to be truly intelligible, pastoral, and doxologicalthe context constituted by the church and her sacraments.
Assistant Professor of Theology, Moody Bible Institute
bookwomanjoanOak Harbor, WAAge: 55-65Gender: female4 Stars Out Of 5Our union with Christ is a vital realityAugust 8, 2016bookwomanjoanOak Harbor, WAAge: 55-65Gender: femaleQuality: 4Value: 4Meets Expectations: 4Johnson was reading Calvin when he noticed that Calvin wrote of being united with Christ in intimate terms. Calvin emphasized that Christ's work is useless if we remain separated from Him. Evangelicals today might find such an idea rather outlandish. There tends to be an objectification of salvation in that the work gets done by Jesus but we don't get the person of Jesus.
Johnson argues that salvation is rooted in and consists of the believer's becoming one with Christ. Our union with the living Christ is, in other words, what it means to be saved. Jesus did not just provide the blessing He Himself is the blessing.
Johnson says that evangelicals didn't know what to do with with this mysterious union so left it to the mystics. The current emphasis has been on the legal or forensic aspect of salvation. We might be taught that the blessings and gifts exist and are given independent from our being joined with Christ. There has been a reticence to embrace the mystery at the heart of our faith.
Johnson covers these topics in the book: the nature and character of this union the Bible refers to, the human predicament that makes the union necessary, the benefits associated with salvation (justification, sanctification, adoption, preservation, glorification), and the church as Christ's body.
I like the emphasis Johnson has made on the intimate nature of our union with Christ. It is vital, transformative and life giving, even though it is beyond our comprehension. It is pictured in the Bible as an intimate relationship between a husband and wife. Johnson writes, ...our union with Christ is both definitive (we have been decisively united with Christ) and progressive (we are continually growing in our union with him).
Johnson identifies the basic thesis of the book: the central reality of our salvation is that through faith, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we enter into a vital, personal, and profoundly real union with the incarnate, crucified, resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ, through whom all the blessings of salvation flow to us.
Johnson has challenged me. Is our union with Christ a mere legal union, something I merely assent to in my mind, or is union with Christ a powerful and life changing reality?
I recommend this book to Christians who have not really considered what it means to be in Christ. The style of writing might be a little on the scholarly side but this is a very important topic for believers. It will encourage you to move from an objective view of salvation to one that embraces the mysterious yet essential union with Christ.