The indicative of our sanctification is established through union with Christ. The imperative of our sanctification is enabled through union with Christ, and is exercised through abiding.
If that statement is true, and I believe that it is, then it is essential that leaders of Christ’s church teach those entrusted to their care about abiding in Christ. Disciples need to learn how indispensable abiding is to Christian life and maturation, and they need to be equipped and encouraged in it.
Abiding is a personal endeavor, one to which every believer is to attend. But it is also a corporate matter. Spiritual formation takes place in the community of faith, through the exercise of the “one another” passages of the New Testament.
Ephesians 4 speaks of the fruit of union with Christ being exercised in community, developed in community, and enjoyed by the community. By Christ’s design and provision, the church is a greenhouse for growth.
I just returned from my denominational General Assembly in Chattanooga, Tennessee where I had opportunity to teach on the subject of abiding in Christ for spiritual fruitfulness. I knew that the subject fit because the theme of the Assembly included the dimension of being “anchored in Christ.” But I was surprised at how broad and deep was the theme of union with Christ. I heard it referenced in other seminars, in sermons, and in conversation.
Abiding in Christ speaks not only to life, it speaks to living. Our constant point of reference is Jesus Christ in the gospel. From that position we find our justification, adoption and sanctification.
I think it is as simple as this. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is saturated with all that is ours “in Christ.” From that ground, Paul gives us our identity and our call. We are to walk (imperative) in a manner worthy of our calling (indicative) in Christ (Eph. 4:1). We are light in the Lord (indicative); therefore, we are to be light (imperative) (Eph. 5:8).
The gospel is the gospel of the kingdom. With transfer from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13), comes a resurrection power and new kingdom allegiance. That allegiance manifests itself in changed kingdom values, ethics, priorities and goals.
General Assembly is always a high for me. I get wearied through all the eating and sitting, but I always come back stimulated and renewed for service to Christ. I’m encouraged by the testimonies of all that Christ is doing through the various arms and agencies of the PCA. I am encouraged as I see men struggle in the trenches but press on in faith and faithfulness to their Lord and His service.
Even the formal and informal debate on issues like justification and sanctification is a blessing. As it takes place in love for one another and concern for adherence to God’s Word, that debate serves to sharpen and spur on.
I see in the PCA that love for God, for the brethren, for the church, and for the world. I think that’s why I come back energized and expectant.