Luther and Union with Christ
As I continue looking at Jordan Cooper's Hands of Faith, I want to stop to highlight some excellent quotes on the impact of "Union with Christ" in Luther's Galatian's commentary. Here, union with Christ through faith acts as "passive righteousness," but not without ripples into how the Christian lives.
"Luther argues that Christ is present in faith itself, and that through his presence in faith, as one is united with him, one is accounted righteous. Luther thus does not place union solely in the active righteousness category;" (57)
Union with Christ ensure the indwelling power of Christ to change the life of the individual believer. Union does not leave the believer unchanged because Christ does not impart mere righteousness but also powerful indwelling Spirit.
"The posession of Christ by faith (passive righteousness) leads to a life of good works, wherein Christ indwells and changes the believer (active righteousness)...If faith really unites one to Christ, then Christ is always going to chane the one with whom he is in union." (58)
This means that the Christian life is not some passive outworking of righteousness. But a conscious and intentional putting to death of the old man in the power of Christ. In perhaps shocking language, Cooper says this diligence is installed "even through threats and punishments:"
"The Christian then must actually consciously try to live according to God's will be suppressing the old man. This happens even through threats and punishments." (59)
But perhaps, the biggest resonance of Luther's union with Christ language is how to changes our reflection on Christian obedience versus the "civic righteousness" of the non-believer:
"They differ in that the living and acting of the Christian is the work of the Son and the Holy Spirit in and through him." (61)
Though the conclusion is correct, I do find it strange that Cooper just prior constrains the role of faith in the believer to merely "making the motivations different." It seems that faith, as the instrument of union with Christ, is the basis of the "living and acting" work of Christ in the believer. So while faith, as mere intellectual submission to God and His law, does not make the works of Christian distinct from the non-believer, it's resulting union with Christ certainly does. This aspect of faith and union certainly provides strength to Calvin's idea of "God's Paternal Clemency."