The Mystical Union: Ephesians 3:16-19

We, as a nation, are adrift, confused and unsure.  We fill our lives with noise and motion, through which we mask the haunting silence of not being able to answer this question: “What is the meaning of my life?”

What about you?  What is your purpose?  Why you are here, at this place and time?  We may especially ask that question when life has left us dry and parched–a windswept desert.  What’s the point, the purpose of this mess we call “life”?

Jesus answers this in John, chapter 10, where He tells His people that He and the Father are one.  But to them, that’s blasphemous.  So they pick up stones to hurl at Jesus.  It’s then that Jesus says, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods?’”  With that verse from the Psalms, Jesus shows us how He is God, that He and the Father are one.

But isn’t it outlandish?  Jesus said that, in someway, we are gods.  Is that just Jesus losing His mind as He panicked for His life?  No, it’s Jesus simply teaching us from the lesser to the greater.  Jesus is saying, “If God unites Himself with you in such a way that you can be even called “gods,” then what does that say about Me, His Son, the Messiah?”

This brings us back to today’s reading from Ephesians.  There, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I pray that God, according to his glorious riches, would strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so the Messiah would live in your hearts through faith.”

Through faith, God lives in the heart of every believer.  This is the mystical union where the Triune God lives in the hearts of, not just some, but all believers.  In some special way, God personally unites Himself with each believer.

Scripture describes this indwelling.

  • You are a temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16).
  • You are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).
  • You are part of the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:23).
  • You have God living within you (John 14:23).
  • Christ lives within your heart (Ephesians 3:17).
  • You are Christ’s own betrothed (Hosea 2:19-20).
  • You are in a spiritual, mystical union (Ephesians 5:32).

This mystical union with God is so close, so real, and so incredible that Jesus even says that we are “gods.”  This union between God and the believer is so intimate that Scripture even describes us as being “partakers of [God’s] divine nature” (2 Peter 1:14).  Imagine that, we share and take part in God’s divine nature!

So then, what is your purpose in life?  It’s to become like God.  Now, like the 1st-century Jews to whom Jesus spoke, this may even sound blasphemous!  Yet, is it blasphemous to say that you are to be as Christ in this world?  Is it wrong to say that Jesus is God?  And if both are true–and they are–then what’s so strange about saying that your purpose in life is to become like God?

That was God’s intent from the beginning, when He created Adam and Eve in His image and likeness.  God originally wanted us to be like Him and live in an intimate, close communion with Him.  But we know what happened.  Through Satan’s prompting, Adam and Eve wanted to be like God in a different way, in the way of their own choosing, in the way of sinful rebellion.

The Fall into sin separated us from God and derailed us from our purpose in life.  That’s why Jesus had to come to restore what we had brought to ruin.  Jesus came to undo our dismal failure of living without sin in a beautiful, divine union with God.  Jesus achieved this in His incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  And Jesus brings you into this divine life through Word and Sacrament, where forgiveness, faith, and salvation come to you ever anew.

Jesus brought us back to God by assuming our flesh and uniting it to God.  And when Jesus returned to His Father, He became the door for us to enter the life of the Holy Trinity.  This union, which we won’t live in its fullness until we are in eternity, will be so complete that we can’t even fully fathom it in our fallen state.

So, what’s going on here?  Will we become actual gods?  No, that would be blasphemous!  Our union with God doesn’t mean that we become the 4th member of the Holy Trinity.  God will never exist as the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and you or me.

Our union with God doesn’t mean that we become God in His essence, substance, or divine Being.  That’s impossible.  Instead, our union with God means that He permeates us with His life and “energies” [energeia].  We will never become part of God in His divine being.  We will never become the Creator.  We will always remain His creation.  But in our union with God, we do receive His life and energy.

Jesus taught this truth when He was speaking about the Last Day, when He will come to judge the living and the dead.  Jesus said:

The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom all causes of sin and those guilty of lawlessness.  [The angels] will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  But the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom (Matthew 13:41-43).

If you are in God’s kingdom, you will not burn in eternity; you will shine with God’s divine light.

But what about now?  We are still sinful.  So, what does this union with God mean for us now, as we make our way in this fallen world?

In baptism, you entered the holy life of God.  It is as Galatians 3:27 says, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  In baptism, you began your life as a “little Christ,” here in this world.  The Holy Spirit now lives in you–and you become the temple of God as you run the race of faith toward eternity.

As you mature in the faith, your life and union with God deepens as you fight the fight of faith and struggle against your sin and rebellion.  God meets you in your struggle and brings you to repent, which is simply a return to your baptism.

Repentance is our normal state of being until God calls us home to eternity.  It’s as Martin Luther wrote, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent,” he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”  Repentance is not something occasional.  It’s the norm as we struggle against our sin.

Our mystical union with God deepens in the mystery of the Lord’s Supper.  In the Supper, we come before the divine and receive and take in God the Son.  We become Christ-bearers as God permeates our entire being.  This is much like a rod of iron being thrust into a flame.  When the iron rod begins to glow, the heat and life of the fire permeate it, without the iron losing its own identity!

But of course, our union with God does not stop with the Lord’s Supper, for this union with God is too real not to be lived out in our lives.  This union with God is the holy ground between justification and sanctification.

Through Word and Sacrament, God continues to justify you, and declare you as His own, righteous and holy.  This continuing justification continues to bring you into the life of the Holy Trinity, where God Himself lives within you.  And it is from this indwelling of God where your sanctification, your life of godly service, begins to be lived out in your life.

It’s as the book of Ephesians tells us.  God strengthens you with power, through His Spirit in your inner being, so the Messiah lives in your heart through faith.  That’s why the Christian life is not one of mere imitation.  Indeed, it’s as our LWML women say.  Our hands work for God.  Our feet go on His errands.  Our voices sing His praises.  And our lips proclaim His redeeming love.

Did you ever realize how Jesus for you in Word and Sacrament can form the life you live?  I mean, if Jesus is only “for you,” that means Jesus only saves you.  But Jesus does much more than that.  So then, how does the Jesus for you, the Jesus who saves you, move you to live out the life of Christ?

This is how.  The Jesus for you also becomes the Jesus in you.  This happens as Jesus Christ comes to live within you by the Holy Spirit’s working.  It is as Paul says: God strengthens you with power, through His Spirit in your inner being, so the Messiah lives in your heart through faith.  When Jesus lives in you, the Christian life becomes real.  The Christian life becomes so real that it moves way beyond something you simply mimic or copy.  It becomes Christ’s life being lived out in you and through you toward others in your life.

Christ for you.  Christ in you.  Christ through you.  That describes the Christian life.  It describes the life of God’s faithful, where your justification moves beyond mere knowledge and is lived out in your life because of the divine life within you.  This is how sanctification becomes real, and not simply a theory of what you are to do.

This is the Christian life.  As a baptized child of God, you continue to fill yourself with Jesus in His preached Word, in absolution, and in the Lord’s Supper.  For you can never get too much of Jesus.  You can never have too much salvation.  And you can never have too much of God’s divine life within you.

With Christ Himself vibrantly living in you, His love for others is vibrantly lived out through you.  Jesus for you, Jesus in you, and Jesus through you; it’s not simply a mantra.  It describes your life with God.  It is the meaning of your life.  It is your life!

It’s that simple.  From Jesus’ love for you through Word and Sacrament, God lives within you.  From the divine life within you, the Holy Spirit then moves you to love others whom God has placed in your life.

Life is not about you.  It’s about Jesus for you, who becomes the Jesus in you, who becomes the Jesus lived through you.  That’s why you need to keep receiving Jesus in Word and Sacrament, through which you keep on keeping on.

Run the race of faith.  For Jesus has declared and made you righteous.  He even lives within you.  That’s why you will shine like the sun in your Father’s kingdom, shining with the divine light of God Himself.  Amen.