Since I have been so negligent in posting in the last few months, I thought I would post a few quotes from what I have been reading, Ridderbos’ Paul.
He is in the midst of defining the “with Christ” and “in Christ” language of Paul apart from the preceding generations of study.
“At the root of ‘being in Christ,’ ‘dying, rising with him,’ is supposed to be the idea of an absoprtion with the deity, indeed of a physical unification with the divine being. …All the emphasis was placed on the naturhaft character of this mysticism, which one must take, not in an ehtical or symbolical, but in a proper and real sense as union with the deity and which is effected in particular through baptism and the Lord’s Supper in a magical way as in the rites of the mystery religions.”
This interpretation is wrong for a number of reasons. “this is evident even from the fact that ‘being in Christ,’ ‘crucified, dead, raised, seated in heaven with him,’ obviously does not have the sense of a communion that becomes reality only in certain sublime moments, but rather of an abiding reality determinative for the whole of the Christian life, to which appeal can be made at all times, in all sorts of connections, and with respect to the whole church without distinction (cf., for example, Col. 2:20ff.; 3:1ff.). Rather than with certain experiences, we have to do here with the church’s ‘objective’ state of salvation, for which reason an appeal is repeatedly made to baptism (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). … But in addition to what may be urged against this interpretation even from a purely historical-phenomenological point of view, the unmistakable fact is passed over that in Paul dying, being buried, etc., with Christ does not have its ultimate ground in the ceremony of incorporation in the the Christian church, but rather in already having been included in the historical death and resurrection of Christ himself.“
This is very close to the difference between the Arminian understanding of faith and the reformed understanding. Christ’s death is what effected our salvation; not our faith in it. Our faith is the means by which that salvation is applied to us by the Holy Spirit; but our faith is neither efficacious nor meritorious. The Arminian understanding, however, is that Christ’s death simply makes available the opportunity for salvation which is made efficacious by our faith. Having quoted 2 Corinthians 5:14ff., Ridderbos goes on to say,
“From this it is to be concluded that ‘having died,’ ‘being in Christ,’ ‘being new creation,’ the fact that his own are no longer judged and ‘known according to the flesh’ (namely, according to the worldly mode of existence), has been given and effected with the death of Christ himself.”
The beauty of the gospel is that Christ finished His work on the cross and it is all sufficient.