Is Love the Bond of Union?

Brother Beebe: - As we sometimes hear some of our ablest preachers say that love is the bond of union between Christ and His church and people; I have presented the above query hoping that some who thus assert will show us by good authority and argument that it is so; or failing, become convinced that they have been asserting for revelation, a traditional or self-invented notion. But in proposing the query for the consideration of others, I presume I may be allowed to accompany it with a statement of some of my objections to the idea. It is true, the advocates of the idea that love is the bond of union sometimes say in proof of it that love constitutes the union of husband and wife. But the proof fails from its own falsity. Love may unite a couple in affection, but it is not that which unites them as husband and wife, neither legally or scripturally. Not legally; for many couples have loved each other who have never legally become man and wife; whilst other couples, it is apprehended, are legally united as one flesh who never loved each other. Scripturally, it is a becoming one flesh that constitutes the relation of husband and wife. Hence Paul after exhorting "husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church" goes on to say, "So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife, loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh." (Eph.5:29) In the case of Adam and Eve, in which is the true representation of the union of man and wife, and a true figure of union of Christ and His church, the ground of their union as assigned by Adam was that she was "bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh." (Gen.2:23,24) One more remark I will make before assigning my objection, viz. that the life in which Christ and His people are one is love, it is the spirit of the law, it is love to God, and therefore the union in this defined sense I admit is one of love. If brethren in speaking of love as the bond of union were thus to explain and define their meaning as characterizing the holy nature of that life in which Christ and His people are one, I should not object to the idea. But in speaking of love as the bond of union, persons are generally understood as conveying the idea that the exercise or feelings of love each toward the other is what constitutes the union; and in fact it is mostly so represented.

My first objection to the idea that love is the bond of union as generally understood is that, as the love must be mutual in order to constitute the union between parties, this doctrine represents Christ, if a head, a head without any existing body until man was created, and as even now having but parts of a body united to Him; many predestinated members not yet being brought to love Him. For though Christ's love may have gone forth from eternity to His members as existing in purpose, yet it is evident His people never love Him until born of God. A loving head without a living body united to it would be a monster.

My second objection to the idea that love constitutes the union of Christ and His people is that it represents love as a distinct existing principle, contrary to every authorized conception we ever had of it; for according to such authorized conception love is but the acting of a pre- existing living principle, toward an existing object, or is the characteristic of such a living principle; it also contradicts the doctrine generally understood by Old School Baptists to be taught in the Scriptures concerning God's love toward His people and their love to Him. It is written, "God is love;" but it certainly is not understood by this that He who is revealed as God is only love in the abstract. I understand it as representing the distinguishing characteristic of Him who is the living God, the almighty and self-existing Spirit. His being love presupposes His existence as God. God's special love to His people even when they were dead in sins, has always been understood by consistent Baptists, as extending to them, not as in themselves considered, but as in Christ, not through Adam but through Christ; this implies that they had a previous existence in Christ which was the special object of God's love; and if a previous existence in Christ, then of course a previous union with Him. Consequently according to this, God's love to them, instead of constituting their union to Christ, was the fruit of such union. Again, consistent Old School Baptists, do not admit that our Adamic nature, prune it and cultivate it as you will, can truly love God; our loving God, then presupposes the implantation in us of a distinct principle of life capable of loving God, whence is this new life derived but from Christ as the head and is therefore the Spirit of Christ in us? If then that living principle by which we love God is derived from Christ as the Head it must have previously existed in Him, and thus in that life we must have been one with Him before ever we loved Him. But if love is the bond of union, we had no union and therefore no existence in Christ, previous to our loving Him. And if we love God we must love Him with the powers of our Adamic nature.

The third objection I have to the doctrine that love is the bond of union between Christ and His people is that, it contradicts the apparent import of many texts of Scripture which speak either directly or indirectly in relation to a union of Christ and His people. I will notice a few. John 3:3-6 represents a new birth, and that a being born not of the flesh but of the Spirit. Are we to understand that here being born again means nothing more than a change of the current of the affections to a loving of God? Or are we to understand by it what is plainly expressed in the word, a being brought manifestively into a distinct state of existence? If the latter, then we must remember that to be born is distinct in idea from being created. To be born implies a previous creation in a head, as our natural birth implies our previous creation in Adam. As this new birth is not a fleshly birth, it cannot be from the fleshly head Adam; and as the Scriptures reveal no other head but Christ and Him as a spiritual head, it must imply a spiritual creation and therefore a previous actual spiritual existence in Him. So in the texts where Christ's people are spoken of as His seed (as in Psalm 22:30; Isa.53:30) the same idea of a previous existence in Christ is fully conveyed, and consequently a created living union with Him. Again, Col. 3:3,4, "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life shall appear....", plainly declares a oneness of life in Christ and in His people and that Christ is this life. According to this text, the union of Christ and His people consists in life and must be as old as the existence of Christ as such. May we not then with confidence proclaim the eternal union of Christ and His people as a revealed doctrine? Hebrews 2:11, "For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one; for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren," I will lastly notice under this objection. I presume it will be admitted that Christ is here intended by the He that sanctifieth, and His people by the they who are sanctified. If so, the expression all of one ought to be admitted to express something more than a union between them formed by love; it positively declares a perfect unity, a one, and that in the very origin of their existence; all of one; that is, in the sense in which they are each here spoken of; their existence in a brotherhood, according to the latter part of the text, is the sense in which they are spoken of. It therefore neither refers to Christ's essential Godhead, nor to His people's creation in Adam. The expression all of one is so unlimited in the declaration that we may not confine the oneness to any one idea connected with the existence of a brotherhood without being guilty of limiting the declaration of God. According therefore to the declaration, they must have existed in Christ's existing as their brother and from the same source; as Adam's posterity existed in his existing and from the same source, the creating power of God. So we shall find this unity in relation to the brotherhood carried out in the Scriptures. Does brotherhood imply the idea of father, here the Father is one? Says Christ, "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God." (John 20:17) Does the idea of brotherhood imply a begetting; if Christ is the Only Begotten of the Father, (John 1:14) they must have been begotten in His begetting for they are born of God, and as showed, He is their Father? Does it imply a birth, and is Christ the first born of every creature; (Col.1:15) His people must have been born in Him, for they existed in Him before the foundation of the world, were the chosen in Him, had grace given them in Him , etc.? Does a birth as before showed presuppose a creation, and is Christ the beginning of the creation of God (Rev.3:14), here the unity also is found, for they are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus, etc.? (Eph.2:10) Does the brotherhood imply sonship, here the unity continues? Is He a Son, so are they sons, and in their sonship have the Spirit of God's Son sent forth into their hearts, etc.? (Gal.4:6) And does sonship imply heirship, and is Christ appointed heir of all things, (Heb.1:2) His people are joint heirs with Him. (Rom.8:17) If then the union of Christ and His people is a oneness of life and of existence, how can love be the bond of union?

A fourth objection to the idea that love is the bond of union is that Paul plainly teaches that the headship of Christ is not the bond, but the source or fountain of union of Him and His people, and charges some with a defect in this thing. See Col.2:10, "And not holding the Head from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God." Here the Head is that from which the body has its increase, its nourishment and is knit together, etc. In a word, I object to the term bond of union, as not being Scriptural in idea nor in expression. In the text just quoted, whilst there are joints spoken of indicative of the distinct action of the several members of both, and bands, showing the binding together of those members, all is from the Head as the fountain. We might as well talk of binding a stream to its fountain, as of binding the church and people of God to Christ their Head. The church is not something bound to Him to make Him full, but is the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. (Eph.1:23) The grand mystery of the gospel is not that we are bound to Christ, but it is "Christ in you the hope of glory." (Col.1:27) And Christ, in speaking of the unity of believers, does not speak of binding them more closely by eternal bonds, but says to His Father, "I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one." (John 17:23)

I will here leave these objections for the consideration of those who preach that love is the bond of union, hoping some one or more of them will let us hear from them on the subject.

Centreville, Fairfax County, Virginia,
July 21, 1848.
S. Trott.
From: SIGNS of the TIMES: Vol. 16 (1848)

Select Works of Elder Samuel Trott
pgs. 387 - 391