Theology can have a “bad rap.” Unfortunately for some, when they hear the word “theology” they think of big books, dry professors, and endless debates about terms and definitions that cause either defensiveness or boredom—either way it leads them to avoid it altogether. But theology (the study of God from the Bible) deserves another shot, for when theology is done right it can lead to doxology.
“Here we go again. Another fancy word!” Oh, but please be patient with me, for there is much to be gained from good words. Doxology is a word that comes from the Greek, “Doxa,” meaning “praise or glorify.” In other words, what I was trying to say is that careful studying of God’s word to learn about who He is and what He has done can lead to worship—where we are affected in our hearts and we erupt with joy and praise for what we discover.
I experienced theology leading to doxology in doing some reading for a class recently, as the professor had us studying a theological concept called, “union with Christ.” This crucial teaching is one which we often times overlook or assume…to our own detriment. It’s a term which is foundational in understanding our salvation.
To understand better, let me first have us consider the apostle Paul. In his writings, union with Christ can be summed up in a simple (yet profound) way by using two words: “in Christ.” 33 times in Paul’s letters he speaks of our being “in Christ” (not counting the times he speaks of union “with him” or “with the Lord.” ) Just think of some of your favorite verses about salvation in the Bible, and there’s a good chance that union with Christ is there.
Let me see if this would help. I’ll list a few classic verses… notice union with Christ in bolded italics:
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:8-9).
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Galatians 3:26).
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24).
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
I could keep going with many more, but I trust you see the beauty already shining forth. It is only that we are “in Christ” that we have no condemnation, are righteous, are adopted, redeemed, and given eternal life. If you take away the “in Christ” we lose everything, but if you have it, then we have everything! In spite of the fact that I am tarnished with all sorts of sin I am loved, redeemed, forgiven, counted righteous and more—all because I’m connected to Christ. His perfection, death and punishment on the cross counts for mine. His perfect life of obedience counts for mine. His sonship is counted as mine.
Take away our union with Christ and we are left with nothing but an expectation of damnation. I know that sounds strong, but it’s true. You see, union with Christ refers to the reality of sinners who trust in Jesus being united or linked to all that He is and all that He has done. But if the sinner stands before God by themselves, without Jesus, they will be held account for their innumerable sins. It’s with this serious backdrop in place where the necessity and beauty of being “in Christ” shines so bright… and leads to worship. Instead of fearing God’s wrath, I now can anticipate His divine pleasure and joy in me. How is that possible? Because of union with Christ. If I’m in Christ then the Father sees me as He sees Jesus.
This is where the theology wells forth into doxology! Listen to the Father saying to Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Now, imagine Him saying the same thing to you! Is that possible? Yes! If you are by faith, “in Christ.” Isn’t that remarkable? Doesn’t that fuel your heart to praise the Lord?!
I’m only scratching the surface here on this glorious and all-encompassing subject. But I will bring this to a close with one more passage that shows both the theology of union with Christ and the doxology of worship being expressed because of it. Here’s Ephesians 1:3-6, showing the mind-blowing reality of our union with Christ in being chosen by God even before He made the world (note union in italics and praise in bold):
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”
Theology to doxology! And all God’s people said? Amen!