April 11, 2024

Are Believers United to Other Believers in Christ?

Nathan W. Bingham & Sinclair Ferguson
Are Believers United to Other Believers in Christ?

We know that Christians are united to Christ, but what relationship do believers have with one another? Today, Sinclair Ferguson addresses this question by looking at the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: Joining us this week is Dr. Sinclair Ferguson. He is the Vice Chairman of Ligonier Ministries, and also the host of the Things Unseen podcast. Dr. Ferguson, you often teach on our union with Christ, but are believers united to other believers in Christ?

DR. SINCLAIR FERGUSON: Yes, indeed we are. But I think it’s important for us to try to understand just how we are.

We know that the New Testament teaches us that believers are united to Christ. Sometimes the New Testament says we believe into Christ, and it so often uses the language of being in Christ. So, we know that individually we are united to Christ. And moreover, we actually are given Christ’s Holy Spirit. This is what He promised in the upper room that when He left the disciples, He would send His Spirit to them, and having His own Spirit would be like Christ Himself dwelling in us. So, that’s how we are united to Christ. We are directly united to Christ by His Holy Spirit.

We’re not directly united to one another in the same way. We’re united to one another because each of us, as Christian believers, receives the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ. And because we’ve received the same Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are united to each other. And this is a marvelous thing to think about. It’s a challenge to our mathematics, isn’t it? I sometimes say, in a room, perhaps there are a hundred people who are Christians. If Christ has given us His Holy Spirit, does that mean there are a hundred Holy Spirits? And of course, everyone realizes the answer is no, there’s only one Holy Spirit. But the marvel, the mystery of that is that, therefore, each of us is indwelt by one and the same Holy Spirit, and it’s this that unites us to one another. So, it’s not that we are united to each other as people who might have the same interests. We have much in common, that’s true, but that’s not the foundation. The foundation is that the Lord Jesus Christ, by His Spirit, indwells each of us.

So, there is an individual union with Christ. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:16 that together we are the temple of God, and in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that individually we are the temple of God as we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. And this has tremendously important implications.

Paul draws this out in Colossians 3:11, doesn’t he? He says: “Here in Christ there’s neither Greek nor Jew, barbarian, circumcised, uncircumcised, Scythian, slave or free. But,” he says, “Christ is all, and is in all.” So, what’s he saying? He’s saying if we’re indwelt by the Holy Spirit, for each of us, Christ is everything. He’s all. And for all of us, He’s everything, He’s all, because we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. But he also adds this: “Christ is in all”—that is to say, “Christ is in each of you.” And I think it’s this that helps us to appreciate the implications that if we have the same Savior, if we are indwelt by the same Spirit, if we have the same heavenly Father, the same Spirit of sonship, if we are in the same family, then thinking about one another that way transforms the manner in which we’ll see each other and treat each other.

I mean, I sometimes think of it this way: if every Christian—and perhaps not least the ones that I personally happen to find quite difficult or awkward—if I begin to think that this is a Christian who is indwelt by the Spirit of the Lord of Glory, then two things will result. First of all, I’ll realize that, actually, we are united together. We are brothers and sisters in the same family. And also, I’ll treat them in a different way—that if the Lord Jesus is not ashamed to give His Holy Spirit to another believer, then why would I be ashamed of them in any way?

So, that’s a very simple question, but the repercussions of the answer are both far-reaching, and actually, if you think about it, very wonderful.