Boston, in his description of the state of grace, has already tested the limits of our imagination by asking us to consider how we are born again. We have seen how this regenerative process mysteriously grants new life to a static festering soul and mind. Now he pushes the envelope of our practical understanding and asks us to plumb the depths of our “Mystical Union” with Christ.
Living in a farming community, I only have to be still and listen to be reminded of the agrarian roots of mankind. Cattle lowing, roosters crowing and the din of farm machinery cause me to think how truly few in our society can appreciate Christ’s analogies to agriculture. The word pictures created by these references are integral to understanding His meanings. In the previous topic of regeneration, He used the good and bad seed concept. Now, in John 15:5 He appeals to the disciples understanding of vine growing to give a picture of their engrafting into Him. “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
Today in order to produce a crop with a more sustainable yield, a defense against disease and tolerable to herbicide, seed companies genetically modify plant DNA. Those nasty little GMO’s are potentially unavoidable, though we may try. Most of us really don’t know where our food comes from or how it is made. We are at the mercy of technology. The disciples lived in a time when everyone, even city dwellers, were somewhat familiar with what it took to produce a good crop. The idea of taking a branch off of one plant and grafting it into the xylem and phloem of another was a common practice of vine growers. A good vine is required to supply the branches with nutrients. This state of nature, one of grace, is our being beneficially grafted into Christ.
There was neither then nor is there now any intention by the Author that we fully understand this union. Though we may be less able to envision agricultural references as in bygone days, we are no less able to grasp the importance of the concept. Boston calls it mystical because of its spiritual nature, but there is also a very real sense in which we are made a part of God. Remember when dealing with regeneration we referenced the supernatural aspect of this remade creature we are becoming. Our belief, not our understanding, is necessary.
Intimacy, both imminent and transcendent, is implied as one individual soul is connected with Christ and thereby unified with the entire body of all believers throughout all generations. It is then made indissolvable by the legal nature of the unification. No drought nor scourge nor blight can separate nor destroy what God has vowed to continue. Covenant Theology uses the legal adoption of children as an example to help us consider the permanency of the arrangement. As we are adopted by God, we are sealed to this new family by a covenant made by God with himself and us. This legal proceeding is binding upon the adoptive father. God is not a foster parent who can give the child back if things don’t work out. He is bound by his own word to keep us. We are thus made heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ and all our illegitimate brothers and sisters. In the same vein, the prospective adoptee does not have input into the arrangement, but is plucked from the orphanage nursery into the waiting arms of the father and the nurturing mother, the church.
The bible is a doctrine of mysteries. Another teaching related to mystical union is the Trinity. Known as the hypostatic union, men have debated this relationship between the three persons of the Godhead for centuries. The scriptures only contain inferences to the nature of this union, but it is essential to the gospel message. If no union then no Christ. To understand the union is not required and probably not recommended. If God wanted us to understand fully, he would have told us. In Duet.29:29 the church is warned to be careful going beyond what God has revealed to us. For the post apostolic church that comes only by the cannon of scripture. We are to believe that we are just as secure in our union to Christ as Christ is united to the Father and the Spirit. No scientific proof is required.
In the history of the vineyard of mankind, there have been only two vines, that is Adam’s and Christ’s. Only two races of men have ever existed Though there are many sizes, shapes, and colors, men have only two fathers. John 8 finds Jesus telling the Jews who their father is and the sad truth is that we too, without the adoption of God, would have been the children of “the devil.” Adam’s descendants bore bad fruit so their branches had to be spliced into the True Vine. Thank God for being a merciful vintner concerned with creating an heirloom vintage.