Monty Collier posted an interesting video blog on YouTube and I liked John’s quote so much I wanted to post it here. It would be hard to find a more succinct refutation of Richard Gaffin’s errant existential theory of union with Christ.
Not only do the Scriptures teach a forensic view of soteriology (law, covenant, sin, righteousness, guilt, condemnation. justification, pardon, and adoption are all legal terms), but the Scriptures are neither mysterious nor mystical. God’s Word is not nebulous or unintelligible. The unintelligible notion of existential and experiential incorporation into Christ is foreign to Scripture.
There is a sense, actually two senses, in which the phrase “united to Christ” may be accurately and Biblically used. Both senses are quite distasteful to proponents of Neo-medievalism. Believers are united to Christ intellectually and legally. Intellectually, because “we have the mind of Christ,” that is, believers think and believe the same propositions Christ thinks, the propositions he has revealed in his Word. Legally, because Jesus Christ is the legal representative of and substitute for his people, the federal head of his race, as Paul argues at length in Romans 5. What Jesus Christ did in his life, death, and resurrection is imputed to believers, as if they had done it, and their sins are imputed to him as if he had done them. Believers do not die with Christ “existentially” or “experientially,” but legally. They do not possess Christ’s perfect righteousness “in the inner man.” Christ’s righteousness is imputed, not infused. His act and righteousness are legally, not experientially, theirs. Their sins are legally, not experientially, his. Christ’s suffering and death are imputed to believers, and we are freed from the penalty of death for our sins. By substituting “existential” and “experiential” union with Christ for the Biblical doctrines of intellectual and legal union, Gaffin has fabricated an entirely un-Biblical soteriology. Tragically, he has been indoctrinating future pastors in this heterodox nonsense for at least three decades. – “In Christ,” John Robbins.