Friday, June 24, 2016

Peterson on Union with Christ

Salvation Applied by the Spirit: Union with ChristSalvation Applied by the Spirit: Union with Christ by Robert A. Peterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Salvation Applied by the Spirit is the second volume of a projected three-volume work from Robert Peterson. The first volume focuses on the accomplishment of redemption in the work of Christ and the third volume will look at eternal election. This volume focuses on exactly what the title states: the application of salvation by the Spirit. Specifically, it is an extensive, clear, well-argued treatise on the extremely important doctrine of the believer’s union with Christ.

The doctrine of union is one over which much ink has been spilt recently(can I say “ink spilt” in 2016?...”many pixels manipulated” just doesn’t have the same ring to it). But, however you choose to say it, this is a doctrine that has received plenty of attention in the last 5-10 years. And rightly so because this is a doctrine of great importance. Peterson’s work is a great addition to the conversation.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part is a survey of the doctrine throughout Scripture. There is a chapter on OT, a chapter on Synoptics, a chapter on Acts, a chapter on John, etc. and 75 chapters on Paul…just kidding. But Paul rightfully gets a lot of attention. The second part is a more cumulative, theological look at the doctrine. Peterson draws heavily from Constantine Campbell’s recent work. Peterson describes the doctrine of union as it relates to eternity past, creation, the fall, the incarnation, Christ’s work, the new creation. He also spends time explaining who the Spirit is and outlining certain attributes and activities that describe him-including his role in uniting believers to Christ.

Here is a scattershot of some important tidbits that stood out to me (Caution: there is neither rhyme nor reason to why I chose the bits I did and why I am ordering them how I am…these are just some thoughts that stood out to me):
*Union is individual and corporate
*God’s identifying with a people in the OT via covenant foreshadows union
*Union in synoptics and Acts not presented explicitly but is implicitly present within a historical redemptive framework
*Not every occurrence of “in Christ” is dealing with the robust and nuanced doctrine of Union w/ Christ
*Christ is not pitying or empathizing with the church when he confronts Saul with a “Why are you persecuting me?” He is united to his people.
*Abide / Vine and Branches in John
* Doctrine of union is explicit and pervasive in Paul
* The doctrine of union is seen consistently in Paul’s greetings
* Believer’s participate in Christ’s narrative
* The “share in Christ” phrasing in Hebrews is a great, albeit debated, example of non-Pauline usage of the concept of union
* John speaks of the dead dying “in the Lord.”
* And more

This is a great book. The length is more overwhelming that the content, so I would encourage anyone interested to get a copy, acknowledge the fact that it is going to be an investment of time, and be assured that the material is presented clearly and accessibly. And then be blessed by a great discussion on this beautiful doctrine.

*I received a review copy from the publisher.

View all my reviews