Religious leaders discuss the word of God in this weekly feature. Published on Fridays, Church Talk discusses themes from the Bible as well as looking at current events in a Christian context.
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” – 1 Timothy 3:16.
This Sunday a national thanksgiving prayer service will be held at the National Auditorium at 6pm under the guidance of the Religious Advisory Council.
At some point in your Christian walk you might ask, “But how am I united to Christ?
“In what sense have I actually died with him? It all just seems like theological word games.”
The questions are certainly understandable in view of the real difficulty of this subject. Yet we should seek understanding, as Anselm suggested in his phrase Fides quaerens intellectum, “Faith in search of understanding.”
When we do, we find, as is generally the case, that the Bible has already provided much to assist our inquiry, especially in the way of illustrations.
The first illustration is the union of a husband and a wife in marriage. In Ephesians 5 Paul portrays Christ in the role of the husband and the church in the role of the wife. He concludes, “This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32).
What kind of union exists within a good marriage?
Obviously, it is a union of love involving a harmony of minds, souls and wills. On the human level we do not always realise this as we should. Yet this is the ideal; and it points quite naturally to our relationship with Christ in which we are enabled increasingly to obey Christ’s great commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt. 22:37, a reference to Deut. 6:5). We do not always succeed on this level either, but it is the ideal the Holy Spirit moves us toward.
It is possible, however, to conceive of a union of minds, hearts and souls apart from marriage. What makes marriage unique is the new set of legal and social relationships it creates.
Marriage changes the woman’s name. She comes into the church as Pat Potter, let us say. She is married to Bob Kerr and leaves the church as Mrs Kerr. Pat has been identified with her husband by means of the marriage ceremony. In the same way, the name of the believer is changed from Miss Sinner to Mrs Christian as she is identified with the Lord Jesus.
Accompanying the change of name there are also legal changes. If Pat owned property before the marriage ceremony she could have sold it as late as that morning with no signature but her own on the document.
After the marriage ceremony she can no longer do that, for the legal affairs of her husband and herself are bound up together.
This single fact throws penetrating light on the necessity of our union with Christ as the basis of our salvation. For through our union with him, he, our faithful husband and bridegroom, is able to pay the penalty which we have incurred because of our sin.
Finally, there are psychological and social changes. Pat knows that she is a married woman and no longer single. She expects to make adjustments to her new husband and will certainly regard other men quite differently from now on. She may even find herself in new company with new friends and new life goals as a result of her new relationship. In a similar way, when we are united to Christ, our old relationships change and Christ becomes the centre of our life and existence.
The second illustration of union with Christ is that of the head and the body. In Ephesians 1:22 23 we read, “And he (that is, God the Father), has put all things under his (that is, Christ’s) feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
Again, in Colossians 1:18, Paul writes, “He is the head of the body, the church. The fullest development is in 1 Corinthians 12:12 27, which says in part, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
For by one Spirit we were all baptised into one body Jews or Greeks, slaves or free and all were made to drink of one Spirit.... Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
This illustration indicates first that our union with Christ is a union with one another as well. As we see in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, the Christians there were divided, and Paul was striving to impress them with the need to realise their true unity.
Second, the “headship” of Christ stresses his lordship. We are all members of the body, but it is his body.
He is the head. The body functions properly only when it responds as he bids it. Third and most important, the illustration shows the union of head and body as a living and therefore growing union.
This means that the union is not established by the act of joining some external organisation, even a true church. Rather it is established only when Christ himself takes up residence within the individual.
The next illustration, that of the vine and the branches (John 15:1 17), highlights that the union of the believer with Christ is for a purpose: that we might be fruitful, that we might be useful to God in this world. Note that this fruitfulness is achieved by Christ’s power and not by anything in us. Indeed, “apart from (him we) can do nothing” (v. 5). Christ also prunes us, streamlines us for his work so we will be fruitful in the ways he desires.
The final illustration of the union of the believer with Christ is the portrait of a spiritual temple composed of many blocks but with Christ as the foundation: “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:20 22). There are parallels to this in Christ’s illustration of the “wise man who built his house upon the rock” (Matthew 7:24) and Paul’s other scattered references to ourselves as “God’s building” (I Cor. 3:9, 11 15).
In each of these cases the central idea is the same: permanence. Because Jesus is the foundation and is without change, all that is built upon him will be permanent also. Those who are Christ’s will not perish but will endure to the end.
Reverend Vaka Naro,
Cook Islands Christian Church
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16
Kayla Kaimarama was always fascinated with politics when she was growing up in Arorangi, Rarotonga.
She is now on the path to becoming a political analyst, the first in her family to pursue an education outside of high school.
Kayla has five brothers and sisters and her parents and older siblings never completed high school.
“It is common for people to work instead of getting an education, so they can support their family,” she said.
“For some, high school is the end of their education path.”
But her parents acknowledged the importance of education and encouraged her to go to university.
“They told me the world today is a challenging environment and in order to get a job you have to get qualifications,” she said.
Kayla is in her second year at Brigham Young University in Hawaii, studying political science, minoring in hospitality and tourism, Pacific Islands studies, human resources and certification in criminal justice.
“I want to work for the embassy, analysing data and working with visas,” she said.
“The system here is so different to what we have back at home and I can take what I learn here and incorporate it back home on the islands.”
While serving her mission in in Independence Missouri Mission, Kayla was inspired by the members who are alumni of BYU-H.
“The opportunity to study in a school where the student body share the same values as I do is rare to find.”
But it wasn’t easy packing up her life and moving away from home.
“I had a good job after my mission as a human resources assistant and financially I was able to support my family. Leaving them was a huge decision to make,” she said.
“Not only was I giving up my job, I was always worried about my family and what would happen to them.”
But Kayla said she has been blessed abundantly since making the move to Hawaii. One of them is learning more about her culture while working part-time as a multi-purpose guide at the Polynesian Cultural Centre.
“I have so much pride in my culture now than ever before,” she said.
“I did not realise much about myself and my culture until I moved far away from home.
It is my dream after I leave this place to continue learning about my culture and about who I am as a Polynesian woman.”
She is also able to attend the temple more often now that there is one only five minutes from where she lives.
“In the Cook Islands my family and I sacrificed and saved all we could in order to travel to the temple at least once a year,” she said.
She hopes more Polynesian people will take the opportunity to study, including her younger sister who will graduate from high school next year.
“Education is an investment that brings great rewards and opens doors of opportunities,” she said.
“Sometimes we are uncomfortable with trying new things. The opportunities are here, but we just need to take them. You might hear stories from people saying studying is hard, but it will be worth it in the end.”
And Kayla is grateful for the heavenly help she has received while studying.
“Every time I pray, I ask for strength, knowledge, and understanding to retain the things I have learnt,” she said.
“Heavenly Father is always there. You can always reach out to Him 24/7. He’s always waiting at the other end of the line.
“My testimony has grown here at BYU because I am including the Lord in all my plans. Sometimes my plans are not His plans, but He knows what’s best.
When I go a day without doing the simple things such as praying and reading the Book of Mormon, I notice I struggle with school and finding time to do everything.
“When I put the Lord first in all I do, He provides a way for me to accomplish all that I need to do.”