. . . And Forget Not All His Benefits

Psalm 103:1 – 2; Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits . . .

As I was thinking this week about Thanksgiving, I was reminded of our union with Christ.  As the Psalmist David said it, “. . . all His benefits . . .”  John Murray said of our union with Christ, it is “the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation.” And our union with Christ transformed the life of the great missionary Hudson Taylor.

In 1849, when Hudson Taylor was 17 years old, his mother locked herself in a room 50 miles from home. She was moved to pray that her son would become a Christian; so she determined to stay in that room until she was sure her prayers were answered.  That afternoon, Hudson picked up a gospel tract in his father’s library on the finished work of Christ and accepted “this Savior and this salvation.” Within a few months of his regeneration, Taylor’s call to China was confirmed during a night of intense prayer when he lay stretched out “before Him with unspeakable awe and unspeakable joy.” Subsequently, his life became a single-minded mission, completely dedicated to bringing the gospel to the interior of China.

He spent the next four years preparing for the mission field by taking medical training and language studies, while deeply immersing himself in the Bible and prayer.  Finally on September 1853, at age 21, Hudson Taylor boarded a commercial sailing vessel headed for China from Liverpool harbor.  After 7 years of service in China, Taylor returned to England to convalesce from hepatitis.  At the same time, he recognized the need to form a missionary society through which he could bring missionaries to the inland regions of China.  Within a year, Hudson and Maria Taylor and their four children, left from England for China with 16 young missionaries, six men and ten women, as the first China Inland Missions missionaries.  Today the ministry is known as Overseas Missionary Fellowship.

In the summer of 1867 the Taylors lost their eldest child, Gracie, to water on the brain.  The following summer, Hudson was nearly killed in a riot, and then was falsely accused in the British Parliament of almost precipitating a war by summoning an English gunboat to rescue him.  The pressures and slander brought Taylor “the awful temptation even to end His own life.”  Hudson and Maria had eight children: four of whom died in infancy or under 10 years of age. They had been married for 12½ years when, in 1870 at 33 years of age, Maria died of cholera.

However, Hudson Taylor’s understanding of the Christian life was forever transformed in 1869 when he received a letter from one of his most experienced missionaries which stated: “To let my loving Savior work in me His will. . . (My part is) abiding, not striving or struggling.” Through the Scriptures, Hudson Taylor recognized that he could exercise faith in the strength and peace that he already possessed as a man in union with Christ.

Michael Horton in his essay; “Union with Christ,” (Copyright 1992, Michael S. Horton) . . . also helps us to understand our union with Christ.

“‘. . . only through union with Christ could the believer enjoy the identity of belonging to God.’ This new identity is not something we achieve by converting ourselves or by trying to enter into it. It is given to us graciously by God, apart from and outside of ourselves.”

“. . . righteousness made no claims on us to which we could respond favorably, but now, because we are united to Christ, new affections and new loyalties produce new service.  It is important to realize that Christ does not come to improve the old self, to guide and redirect it to a better life; he comes to kill us, in order to raise us to newness of life. He is not the friend of the old self, only too happy to be of service. He is its mortal enemy, bent on replacing it with a new self.”

“What Is “Union With Christ“?  If this doctrine is, as John Murray wrote, “the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation,” what does it mean and why is it so important?”

“First, union with Christ describes the reality of which Paul wrote in Romans chapter six. As a husband and wife are united through marriage and a parent and a child are united through birth, so we are united to Christ through the Spirit’s baptism. Those who are familiar with the historical (if not contemporary) discourses of Reformed and Lutheran preaching will immediately recognize the emphasis on the objective work of Christ in history. Themes such as election, the incarnation, the substitutionary atonement, the active and passive obedience of Christ, justification, adoption, and the objective aspect of sanctification (i.e., the declaration that we are already holy in Christ), form the diet of the best and most biblically faithful preaching. Each of these themes serves to remind the believer that his or her righteousness is found not within, but outside.”

“Nevertheless, there is a subjective aspect to our union with Christ which receives equal attention in Scripture and, therefore, commands equal attention from us. Calvin wrote, ‘We must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us . . . All that he possesses is nothing to us until we grow into one body with him’ (Institutes, III.i.1).”

“All of our righteousness, holiness, redemption, and blessing is found outside of us – in the person and work of Christ. This was the declaration of the Scriptures and, following the sacred text, of the reformers, in the face of a subjective righteousness located in the believer. And yet, as Calvin points out, this ‘alien righteousness’ belonging to someone outside of us would mean nothing if this righteous one remained forever outside of us.”

“While none of our righteousness is our own, Christ is! While none of our holiness belongs to us, properly speaking, Christ does! The devils know Christ is righteous, but they do not, cannot, believe that he is their righteousness.”

“It is essential, therefore, to point unbelievers and believers alike to Christ outside of their own subjective experiences and actions, but that is only half the story! The Christ who has done everything necessary for our salvation in history outside of us now comes to indwell us in the person of his Holy Spirit. ‘God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Colossian 1:27).  While our assurance is rooted in the objective work of Christ for us, it is also true that ‘We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit’ (1 John 4:13).”

“Paul appeals to this doctrine as the organizing principle for his entire systematic theology.  The First Adam-Second Adam contrast in Romans five depends on this notion. ‘In Adam,’ we possess all that he possesses: original sin, judgment, condemnation, fear, alienation; ‘in Christ’ we possess all of his righteousness, holiness, eternal life, justification, adoption, and blessing. Further, ‘Even when we were dead in trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus . . .’ (Ephesians 2:5).  ‘I have been crucified with Christ,’ Paul declares, ‘and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20).”

“Thus, this doctrine is the wheel which unites the spokes of salvation and keeps them in proper perspective. ‘In Christ’ (i.e., through union with Him) appears, by my accounting, nine times in the first chapter of Ephesians.  Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, God has thus ‘made us accepted in the Beloved.’  He cannot love us directly because of our sinfulness, but he can love us in union with Christ, because he is the one the Father loves.  ‘In him we have redemption;’  ‘in him we have an inheritance,’ and so on.”

“This doctrine is another way of saying, ‘Christ alone!’” Psalm 103:1 – 2; Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits . . .


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