So far we have looked at the perfect union of Christ and Bride (One Flesh with Christ), the perfect union of Father, Son and All Believers (Perfectly One in the Father and the Son), and the identical stone material of the Temple of God (The Living Temple of the Spirit). These generally deal with the community of believers as a whole in relation to Father Son Spirit. In contrast, I Corinthians 6:17 deals with individual believers in relationship to the Lord.
While verse 17 is part of a larger block which deals with sexual immorality, I believe we deserve to study the verse more specifically for the insight it provides us. I doubt that you will be surprised why I am including it in this series, since it specifically addresses our one-ness with Christ.
I Corinthians 6:17
I will cite the verse in several versions, discuss them, and then cite the verse in a slightly more literal form, and point out the significance of the difference.
- But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him. (NLT)
- But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. (NIV)
- But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. (ESV)
- But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. (NASB)
I have heard teachers compare becoming one spirit with the Lord to what happens when we place two candles together and the flames burn together as one. That is fairly easy to visualize, although it is still a little “out there.” How we are one spirit with Jesus is not patently obvious in the workaday world in which we live.
But it gets a little more difficult, in my opinion, when we look at the words that literally present in I Corinthians 6:17, and which are not. Some of you noticed the subtle difference in the rendering above of the New American Standard Bible (NASB). The words “with Him” are in italics, which means those words are not in the original Greek.
ο δε κολλωμενος τω κυριω εν πνευμα εστιν
But whoever is united with the Lord is one spirit.
If we were talking about candle A sharing a flame (a spirit) with candle B, then we could say something like “if candle B is united with candle A with one flame (a single flame) then candle A is one flame with candle B.” What we have, however, is “But whoever is united with the Lord is one spirit.” To add the words “with him” would allow a degree of separateness not in the literal wording.
When I join myself to the Lord I am one spirit. This sounds very similar to the “one flesh” language of Ephesians 5:31. We are one flesh, we are one spirit.
In other words, when a believer is joined or united to the Lord, she and the Lord are one spirit. They are no longer two separate spirits. To describe this in some sort of “metaphysical” detail is hardly more than playing with words. If you can intellectually grasp our union with the Son, our union with the Lord, then you are well on your way to understanding the subtleties of the Trinity–good luck with that! Suffice it to say, the Lord and an individual are no longer two separate spirits, but are one spirit.
The last thing we want to do is reduce this profound truth of who we are in Christ to an intellectual puzzle to solve. Remember Paul’s prayer that the father would give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation to grasp the mystery of what Jesus gets when he gets us. We are the prize. We are the treasure that Jesus found in the field, for which he sold everything in order to gain.
For those of you who are interested, there are a number of ways to express the phrase “with him” using Greek words actually used in the Bible. Several such ways include σὺν αὐτῷ, παρ’ αὐτῷ, μετ’ αὐτοῦ, ἐν αὐτῷ, πρὸς αὐτὸν.
I am the first to admit that I am by no means a Greek scholar. I would simply note that I was startled that what little distinction between the the Lord and the one joined is left by the “one spirit with him” language of the more natural-sounding translations feels stripped away by the lack of the words “with him.”
The difference between I Corinthians 6:17 and the other passages we’ve looked at so far is that this Corinthians passage concerns individual believers who join themselves to the Lord, as opposed to the Body of Christ, or the Bride of Christ, which includes all believers in union with one another, who are also in perfect union with Christ.
You may notice that I have avoided discussing “how” we experience, or “how” our union comes to fruition. I believe it is necessary to demonstrate the fact that our perfect union with Christ results in our perfect union with Father Son Spirit, something a number of people, in their ignorance of both New Testament teaching and the teaching of tradition (e.g. Athanasius) continue to deny.
The “how” tends to be reduced to being nice to people and forgiving them when they bother us. I will discuss next the importance of viewing all this as an accomplished fact, a present reality as opposed to something to be achieved. The problem with viewing our complete unity with God as a “both-and” proposition, that it is both future and present, is that this becomes a convenient excuse to make no progress in the “present” and to reserve everything to some vague “future,” “the sweet by and by.”
The fact of you and Jesus being one spirit is important in many ways. One was is that it is prerequisite to all of us becoming mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Before we can arrive at the epitome of this corporate experience, some of us need “individually” to make a decent bit of progress in that direction.
English Standard Version
But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
New Living Translation
But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.
King James Bible
But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
Holman Christian Standard Bible
But anyone joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
International Standard Version
But the person who unites himself with the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
But the one united with the Lord is one spirit with him.
Aramaic Bible in Plain English
But whoever cleaves to our Lord becomes one spirit with him.
English Revised Version
But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
To Read More in this Series, click on The Bride of Christ is God.