The Remarkable Reality of Union with Christ

The Remarkable Reality of Union with Christ

It may be the most important doctrine you’ve never heard of.

So says Kevin DeYoung about the reality of “union with Christ” — and sadly it seems he’s right.

But hopefully you aren’t among that number — and have not just heard about the doctrine, but begun to taste the practical fruit of this wide and wonderful reality. As Sinclair Ferguson says about union with Christ, “Of all the doctrines surrounding the Christian life this, one of the profoundest, is also one of the most practical in its effects.”

Even though union with Christ too often has been under-emphasized, more and more pastors and laymen are talking in recent years about union with Christ. And we want to add kindling to that fire.

What Is Union Anyway?

Simply put, union with Christ is the theological term for the believer’s being joined to Jesus by the Holy Spirit through faith. In fulfillment of God’s ancient promise, I will be your God, and you will be my people, union with Christ is, according to John Frame, “the most general way of characterizing Jesus’s work of salvation.” The way in which all that Jesus accomplished for us gets applied to us is through our being connected to Jesus, our being “in” him.

Our union with Jesus by faith is how the objective accomplishments of his life, death, and resurrection two millennia ago come to be subjectively applied to other humans, whether Peter, Paul, Mary, Augustine, Luther, Spurgeon, or those of us who believe in the 21st century.

A Pastors Conference Dream Come True

Two voices who have helped get this vital doctrine back on the radar, and into its proper place, are Sinclair Ferguson and Michael Horton. We dreamed that maybe they’d help us explore the glories of this doctrine at our upcoming Desiring God 2014 Conference for Pastors, and they both agreed. So Monday to Wednesday, February 3–5, 2014, Ferguson and Horton will join forces with John Piper under the banner,

The Pastor, the Vine, and the Branches: The Remarkable Reality of Union with Christ

We’d love to have you mark your calendar, make arrangements, and join us in Minneapolis in February. Ferguson, Horton, and Piper each will give two plenary messages on union with Christ — Ferguson focusing on exposition, Horton honing in on the theological and historical, and Piper preaching through John 15 and providing a biographical address on missionary Hudson Taylor.

A $15 discount is available for those who register before January 1.

Also, Paul Tripp will be joining us for two pre-conference sessions on making the gospel practical in pastoral ministry, along with four afternoon seminar options. Here’s the full schedule, with the speakers and message titles.

Monday, February 3

1:00 – 1:45 PM Pre-Conference

  • Paul Tripp, Preaching the Gospel to Yourself

2:00 – 2:45 PM Pre-Conference

  • Paul Tripp, Living the Gospel That You Preach

3:00 – 3:45 PM Seminars

  • Jared Wilson, The Promise in Pastoral Weakness

  • Kempton Turner, The Pastor’s Purity and Pleasure

  • Rick Gamache, Pastoring Your Wife and Kids

  • David Mathis & Jonathan Parnell, How to Stay Christian in Seminary — And Any Season of Waiting

7:00 – 8:30 PM
John Piper, Glorifying God by Bearing Fruit in Union With Christ (John 15:1–11)

Tuesday, February 4

8:30 – 10:00 AM
Sinclair Ferguson, Union with Christ: Mind-Renewing Foundations

10:30 – 11:30 AM
Michael Horton, Calvin on Union with Christ

1:45 – 3:00 PM
Sinclair Ferguson, Union with Christ: Life-Transforming Implications

7:00 – 8:30 PM
Michael Horton, Union With Christ and the Communion of Saints

Wednesday, February 5

8:30 – 10:15 AM
John Piper, The Ministry of Hudson Taylor As Life in Christ

10:45 – 11:45 AM
Speaker Panel, Questions & Answers with Horton, Ferguson, and Piper

For more on union with Christ, especially as it relates to sanctification, see the introduction to Acting the Miracle: God’s Work and Ours in the Miracle of Sanctification and John Piper’s post “The Stupendous Reality of Union with Christ”. For more information on the conference — or to take advantage of the discounted rate by Wednesday, January 1 — see the event page.

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at, pastor at Cities Church (Minneapolis), and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.