I have a dear friend who lives in the opposite end of the country from me. She is so far away, I don’t know when I’ll see her again. One thing I love about her is that she calls me, “Sister.” It’s not just an endearment or term of affection. It doesn’t just signify we’re good friends. Rather, it’s a statement of fact. For in Christ, she is my sister.
Union with Christ and with Others
The New Testament frequently uses the phrase “in Christ” (and similar expressions) to signify one of the most important truths of the Christian life: our union with Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Through salvation, through Christ’s atoning work for us on the cross, and through the Spirit’s work in our hearts making us alive to faith, we are united to Christ. In union with Him, we receive all the benefits of what He has done for us (i.e., justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification). “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Eph. 1:7). Only in union with Him do we grow and bear fruit. In fact, our union with Christ is so essential that, apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).
Because we are united with Christ, we are also united to one another in the church. Though we come to faith as individuals, we are adopted into the family of God. All those for whom Christ died are our brothers and sisters. This means the other redeemed women in our local church are our sisters in Christ. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:19–22).
Union Lived Out
One of the ways Paul describes our union with others is by comparing it to a human body. “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 in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:12–13). Each part of the Body is necessary and important; not one is better than the other (v. 15–26). Paul also tells us we are so united and knit together so that when one part suffers, we all suffer (v. 26).
What does this union with others in the family of God look like? The New Testament provides a number of instructions for how we are to relate to one another in the church. Here are a few:
Loving One Another. Our union with one another is expressed most notably through our love for one another. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Our love for each other is the inevitable result of being in union with our Savior. As believers, because we are united to the same Savior, we experience and receive love from Him. And because He loves us, we love one another.
Serving One Another. “Through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13). Sisters in Christ serve one another by meeting each other’s needs. We might bring a meal, drive someone to an appointment, babysit, or even provide a place to sleep. Helping our sisters in Christ isn’t simply a nice thing do; it’s not just a good deed done out of the kindness of our heart. It’s a natural overflow of our connection to one another in Christ—originating in our union with Christ himself.
Mourning with One Another. “Weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). Sisters mourn and weep with each other. We enter into one another’s grief. We listen, we encourage, and we sit in the dust and ashes. We do so because “if one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor. 12:26). In the same way that an injury to one part of our physical body affects our entire body, when someone in our church Body is hurting, we all hurt.
Discipling One Another. Titus 2 is the famous discipleship chapter. In it, Paul commands older women to disciple younger women in how to live out the gospel in their lives (2:3–5). Discipleship is an important aspect to sisterhood in the church. There is always someone younger we can disciple and someone older who can disciple us.
Exhorting One Another. Hebrews 3:13 says, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Sisterhood in the church involves exhortation. We need each other to see the things in ourselves we’ve grown blind to. Sin is deceitful so we need others who will point out truth to us. A sister in the Lord who spots sin in our life and exhorts us to turn back to Christ is a good friend.
My sister-friend lives far away from me. But because we are united in Christ, we are sisters for all eternity. The same is true for all our sisters in the Lord. Let us seek to live out our union, abiding in the One who unites us.