Life in the Son: Exploring Participation and Union with Christ in John's Gospel and Letters, By Clive Bowsher

Life in the Son

Exploring Participation and Union with Christ in John's Gospel and Letters

New Studies in Biblical Theology


by Clive Bowsher
Series edited by D. A. Carson

Life in the Son
  • Length: 200 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.5 in
  • Published: July 25, 2023
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: A0827
  • ISBN: 9781514008270

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The New Testament writers use spatial language and imagery to portray our relationship with God, speaking both about God or Christ in us and us in them. Believers are also described as possessing and participating in divine qualities such as life and glory. Both aspects are prominent in John's Gospel and letters. However, outside the Pauline writings, union with Christ has hardly been addressed in New Testament scholarship. Clive Bowsher seeks to redress this balance in his New Studies in Biblical Theology volume Life in the Son.

In John's Gospel, the oneness of the Father and Son is described as the Father and Son being "in one another." Clive Bowsher's study shows that union with Christ in John's Gospel and letters is the in-one-another relationship of believers with the Father and Son by the Spirit—the intimate, loving, relational participation of the believer and God, each in the life, affections, ways, and work of the other. Insightful and accessible, Bowsher's study also explores connections with the shape of sonship, covenant and the life of the age to come. This volume fills a significant gap in the literature and promises to be a blessing to pastors, preachers, and scholars alike.

Addressing key issues in biblical theology, the works comprising New Studies in Biblical Theology are creative attempts to help Christians better understand their Bibles. The NSBT series is edited by D. A. Carson, aiming to simultaneously instruct and to edify, to interact with current scholarship and to point the way ahead.

"The recent resurgence of scholarly attention given to the theme of union with Christ has primarily focused on Paul, making the lack of attention to the theme within Johannine literature all the more striking. Clive Bowsher has addressed this gap with his insightful, probing, and informative volume, demonstrating the centrality of in-one-anotherness of Father–Son and believers in John's Gospel and letters. Bowsher highlights John's focus on this loving, intimate, and relational participation between God and his people, making his book essential reading for anyone wanting to understand union with Christ and/or John's writings."

Constantine R. Campbell, professor and associate research director at the Sydney College of Divinity

"Many Protestants are familiar with the one-anotherness of the Christian faith; we are called to a life of selfless love for one another in Christ's body, the church. But few are aware that the one-anotherness between believers is based on something even more fundamental, the fact that the Father and Son are eternally in one another and that we as Christians are in the Father and the Son. Bowsher's illuminating research expertly explores the contours of in-one-anotherness between God and believers in the Johannine writings of the New Testament. His book is eye-opening, faith-enriching, and heart-warming; it will affect every aspect of your relationship with God and with his people. I recommend it enthusiastically."

Donald Fairbairn, Robert E. Cooley Professor of Early Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

"Clive Bowsher persuasively demonstrates the centrality of what he calls 'in-one-anotherness'—or the reciprocal relationship between believers and God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit—to the Gospel and epistles of John. This entails participation in God's ways, work, and character as the fulfillment of the Bible's covenant motif, as sharing in the story of Jesus, and as experiencing proleptically the life of the age to come. Everyone interested in the Johannine literature or in the themes of union and participation should engage with this significant volume."

Michael J. Gorman, Raymond E. Brown Chair in Biblical Studies and Theology at St. Mary's Seminary and University, Baltimore, Maryland

"Given that union with Christ is central to how Christ's work becomes ours, and given the diverse interpretations of it in theology, we need to return anew to Scripture to grasp properly this glorious truth. In this groundbreaking work, Clive Bowsher does precisely this. He offers careful biblical and theological reasoning that clarifies what union with Christ is, and as such we are indebted to him. This work is essential reading for understanding and glorying in what it means to be united to Christ and thus to be in covenant relationship with our triune Creator, Redeemer, and Lord."

Stephen Wellum, professor of Christian theology and editor of SBJT, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary


Series preface
Author’s preface
Introduction: Johannine oneness and participation with Christ
1. ‘In Christ’ in John: setting the scene
2. Oneness, participation and life in the Fourth Gospel
3. Oneness, participation and life in the Johannine epistles
4. Oneness and participation with Christ in the Johannine Gospel and epistles: a synthesis so far
5. Participation in the journey of Jesus
6. Oneness and participation with the Son in the Johannine Gospel and epistles
7. In-one-anotherness with Christ: the eschatological culmination of covenant
8. In conclusion: Johannine oneness and participation with Christ
Appendix 1: Pauline union with Christ
Appendix 2: A preliminary look at oneness and participation with Christ in Revelation
Appendix 3: An analysis of the Greek discourse of John 14:15-24
Appendix 4: Hortatory-imperatival use of the third-person indicative in New Testament Greek outside 1 John
Index of authors
Index of Scripture references


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Clive Bowsher is provost of Union School of Theology, where he teaches and researches in New Testament and Biblical Theology. Previously, he served as lead minister of a local church and co-mentored Union's Learning Community in Oxford, UK. He has held positions at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, and Bristol.

D. A. Carson

D. A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.