You will observe, then, that when the apostle speaks of these Corinthian believers as being “in Christ Jesus, ” he intends thereby to set forth their personal standing in the Son of God under two distinct points of view:
1. As originating in eternity;
2. As taking place in time. In other words, every believer has a twofold union with Christ; one from all eternity, which we may call, an eternal, or election-union; the other in time, through the Spirit s operation in his heart, which we may call a time, or regeneration-union. Let us attempt to unfold these two kinds of union separately.
1. Every soul, then, that ever had, has now, or ever will have a standing in Christ, had this standing in Him from all eternity. Just in the same way as the vine, according to the Lord s own figure, puts forth the branches out of the stem; not a single branch comes out of the stock but what previously was in the stock: so, not a single soul comes manifestatively into spiritual existence which had not first an invisible and eternal union with the Son of God. This eternal, immanent, and invisible union with the Person of Christ, God blessed his people with before all worlds, by his eternal purpose, and according to his own eternal counsel.
2. Now, out of this eternal and immanent union springs the second union that we have spoken of, which is a time union -a union in grace: a vital union betwixt a living soul and a living Head. Until the Lord quickens elect vessels of mercy they have eternal union, but they have not time union. Their eternal union never can be altered: that never can be dissolved: that accompanies them all through their unregenerate state: but their vital, spiritual, and experimental union takes place in time, through the teaching, and under the operations of the blessed Spirit.
But what a mercy it is for God’s people that before they have a vital union with Christ, before they are grafted into him experimentally, they have an eternal, immanent union with him before all worlds. It is this eternal union that brings them into time existence. It is by virtue of this eternal union that they come into the world at such a time, at such a place, from such parents, under such circumstances, as God has appointed. It is by virtue of this eternal union that the circumstances of their time-state are ordained. By virtue of this eternal union they are preserved in Christ before they are called; they cannot die till God has brought about a vital union with Christ. Whatever sickness they may pass through, whatever injuries they may be exposed to, whatever perils assault them on sea or land, fall they will not, fall they cannot, till God s purposes are executed in bringing them into a vital union with the Son of his love. Thus, this eternal union watched over every circumstance of their birth, watched over their childhood, watched over their manhood, watched over them till the appointed time and spot, when “the God of all grace,” according to his eternal purpose, was pleased to quicken their souls, and thus bring about an experimental union with the Lord of life and glory.
But this time union, this vital, experimental union, we may speak of also under two distinct points of view.
– J. C. Philpot