Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study

ConCoverUnion with Christ is a massively important theme that connects various elements of Paul’s theology.

When I was first deciding on a dissertation topic, my pastor at the time, Mark Minnick, suggested “union with Christ.” I gave it serious thought, but I ended up going another direction. But until this month I have been unaware of a resource that comprehensively treats this topic.

The most comprehensive online bibliography on union with Christ that I’m aware of is by Phil Gons.

And now this is the most comprehensive book:

Constantine R. Campbell. Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012.

  • 480 pp.
  • The 19-page sample PDF available here includes the 9-page table of contents. I love how Con outlines the book; it makes his argument much easier to follow.
  • Endorsements by Don Carson, Peter O’Brien, Doug Moo, Mike Bird, Mike Horton, Howard Marshall, Francis Watson, and Morna Hooker
  • Video:

How does Con define “union with Christ”?

These single-idea terms [i.e., mysticism, union, and participation] are not sufficiently broad to encapsulate all that Paul envisions by our relatedness to Christ, and most likely no single term will do justice to the theme. Instead, I propose that this theme is best conveyed through four terms: union, participation, identification, and incorporation.

  1. Union gathers up faith union with Christ, mutual indwelling, trinitarian, and nuptial notions.
  2. Participation conveys partaking in the events of Christ’s narrative.
  3. Identification refers to believers’ location in the realm of Christ and their allegiance to his lordship.
  4. Incorporation encapsulates the corporate dimensions of membership in Christ’s body.

Together these four terms function as ‘umbrella’ concepts, covering the full spectrum of Pauline language, ideas, and themes that are bound up in the metatheme of ‘union with Christ’. Furthermore, all four terms entail ethical expectations, as Paul draws on the implications of union, participation, identification, and incorporation to inform the Christian life. (p. 413, formatting added)

Con calls those four terms in that order “a kind of ‘union-with-Christ ordo salutis” (p. 414).


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