Pastor David B. Curtis


United With Christ - Part 1

Romans 6:5-10

Delivered 07/17/2011

Through our study of the Epistle to the Romans we have seen Paul trace and argue for the truth of justification by faith alone. No adherence to the Law, no religious pedigree, and no accumulation of merit can change the sinner's status to one of righteousness before God. But the work of Christ does it all! God's justice has been satisfied by Christ's obedience to the Law and substitutionary death for those He came to redeem.

We began to look at Romans chapter 6 last week:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? Romans 6:1 NASB

It is very important that we understand that this is not a new subject. Paul is continuing a thought that he started in chapter 5. We must keep chapter 6 in its context. And we must also keep in mind that he is particularly talking to Hebrew believers in this section.

Paul is not talking here about individual sins, he is not saying, "Shall we go on sinning." He is saying, "Shall we continue in 'the sin.'" "The sin" is the sin of Adam. If sin increases the grace of God (5:20) shouldn't we continue to live in "the sin?" To put it another way, shouldn't we continue to live under The Law since Law increases sin, which increases grace? The question is, Shall we stay under the bondage of The Law? Shall we remain under the Old Covenant? Paul's answer is:

May it never be! How shall we who died to the sin still live in it? Romans 6:2 NASB

John MacArthur and other Lordship writers jump on this verse to prove their theology--since we died to sin, we can't live in it. MacArthur writes, "Anyone who comes to Christ who is justified and regenerated and adopted into the family of God and converted...and redeemed, is also transformed. He receives a new nature and that new nature spontaneously produces the fruit of the Spirit, it produces the graces that were manifest in Christ Himself that are characteristic of God, not the same in fullness, but the same in kind to a lesser degree. That's sanctification." He goes on to say, "You can't be dead to sin and live to sin. You're either dead or alive."

But the text doesn't say that we died to sin, but to the sin. The sin of Adam. We still sin and always will in this life. But we are no longer in Adam:

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Romans 6:3 NASB

Paul tells us that we died in baptism. Baptism here means initiation into a new relationship, or identification with Christ. It has nothing to do with water. We were baptized (identified) into Christ's death. When Jesus Christ died, we died with Him. We are one with Him, and His death is ours:

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4 NASB

The words "buried with" mean: "to bury together, join in burying or to be buried with."The word "with" indicates a "co" relationship with Jesus Christ. This is a co-burial. It is saying, "When Jesus was buried, we were buried."

"So we too might" is better translated, "in the same way also we might walk in newness of life." This newness of life is already yours because Christ, with whom you are in union, has been raised from the dead by the glory of the Father.

We died with Christ and were buried with Him, but it doesn't stop there:

For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, Romans 6:5 NASB

"If"--verses 5 and 8 have an "if . . . then" construction. Verse 5: "If united to Him in His death, then certainly you will be united in His resurrection."

"We"--Paul uses the first person plural pronoun "we" throughout these verses. He's talking to Jewish believers specifically. Paul writes in the plural reminding us that he is dealing with the community of believers. Paul's focus is on the resurrection of the church rather than of the individual.

"Have become united with Him"--the word united here is the Greek word sumphutos, which literally means: "grown together with," it is used of the edges of a wound or fusing of the broken ends of a bone. It has the idea of being grafted into something. The perfect tense demonstrates that this is not a gradual growing into His death. That's a good picture of what happened to us when Christ died. God grafted us into Jesus Christ as He died on the cross. He joined us to Him so that the effects of His death in bearing the wrath of God, while being poured out on Christ, were by that act of union poured out on us, too. Though He stood in our place, the effects of what He did were just as if God had poured His fierce wrath out on us.

We have been united with Him! Here is the great doctrine of union with Christ. There are several other texts in Paul's writings that show the all-important place of our union with Christ:

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 1 Corinthians 1:30 NASB

Notice that it is God who creates the union. "By God's doing you are in Christ Jesus." Literally, "From Him you are in Christ Jesus." He creates the union by His grace. We embrace it by faith.

Notice the importance of this union with Christ. If you are in Christ, by God's doing, Christ becomes for you "wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption." All that Christ is for you, He is for you because you are "in Him." Because you are united to Him.

Back to our text: I want you to notice the verb tense of "have become united." It's a perfect tense verb, which means that an event has taken place and the results of it continue forever. Once we are in union with Jesus Christ the reality of union and its results never diminish or vanish. That's why it is unbiblical to think that a Christian can lose his salvation.

"United with Him in the likeness of His death"--the word "likeness" here is the Greek word homoioma, which suggests: "similarity, but difference." I was not literally nailed on a cross, neither was Paul. I think we all understand that this is talking about our position. This is our spiritual identity. Keep that in mind as we look at the next phrase.

"We shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection"--this is future tense, meaning it hadn't happened yet. Resurrection was future at the time of Paul's writing. Is it still? Most believers think it is still future to us. John Piper writes: "This is a reference to some future resurrection that is certain because of our union with Christ."

The traditional view that is held by most of the Church is this: When a believer dies, their body goes into the grave and their spirit goes to heaven to be with the Lord. They are in a disembodied state awaiting the resurrection at the end of time. Then at the end of time the Lord returns, resurrects all the decayed bodies of the dead saints, puts them back together, then changes the physically resurrected bodies into spiritual immortal bodies like Christ's.

Now remember what we said in our study of chapter 5: When Adam sinned, he died spiritually, not physically. Man's problem is spiritual death; separation from God. Because of Adam's sin, we are all born dead, separated from God. But through Jesus Christ came the resurrection from the dead. Jesus Christ came to restore what Adam had lost, fellowship with God. Jesus Christ came to redeem man from death, to resurrect man back into the presence of God. Coming into the New Covenant by faith is resurrection from the dead. You can't get into the kingdom of God or the New Covenant if you have not been resurrected from the dead. The Bible is God's Book, about His plan to restore the spiritual union of His creation. Resurrection is not about bringing physical bodies out of the graves, it is about restoring man into the presence of God.

Resurrection has nothing to do with physical bodies coming out of graves. Our text in Romans says that "If we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection." As we said, the death was not physical, so why would the resurrection be? The word "likeness" here is again the Greek word homoioma, it is "similar, but different." Being united in His resurrection doesn't mean that my body is going to come out of the grave in exact likeness of Jesus any more than the death on the cross means that I have been crucified. The resurrection is the spiritual application of Jesus' death and resurrection on my behalf. I don't have to die to get eternal life, and neither does my physical body have to be raised. Jesus' resurrection life is applied to us, so that we are now raised from the dead.

Notice what Daniel said about resurrection:

"And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:2 NASB

According to the Bible, when was the resurrection to take place? The Scriptures testify that the time of the resurrection was to be at the end of the Old Covenant age:

"But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age." Daniel 12:13 NASB

We know this to have happened in A.D. 70 with the destruction of the Jewish Temple. The disciples knew that the fall of the temple and the destruction of the city meant the end of the Old Covenant age and the inauguration of a New Age.

Resurrection was to take place at the end of the age, and since the promise was made to Israel, it was to happen at the end of Israel's age, A.D. 70. Eschatology is Israel's eschatology! If the promises to Israel have been fulfilled, then resurrection has occurred:

having hope toward God, which they themselves also wait for, that there is about to be a rising again of the dead, both of righteous and unrighteous; Acts 24:15 YLT

The words "about to be" are the Greek word mello. Whenever mello in the present active indicative is combined with an infinitive, it is consistently translated "about to." Paul told his first century audience, "there is about to be a resurrection."

If we are going to understand what Paul is saying about the resurrection, we must understand "audience relevance." Paul is not talking to us; he is talking to Felix, Ananias, Tertullus, and the elders. Paul told them that there was about to be a resurrection. So if the timing of the resurrection was "soon," what does this tell us about the nature of the resurrection? It must be spiritual! Time defines nature.

Since we know that the resurrection is past, we know that it was spiritual and not physical. The resurrection of the dead that took place at the end of the Old Covenant in A.D. 70 was not a biological resurrection of dead decayed bodies, but was a release from Sheol of all who had been waiting through the centuries to be reunited with God in the heavenly kingdom.

We can see from the teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus several things about the resurrection beliefs of the early Christians:

and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some. 2 Timothy 2:17-18 NASB

The early Christians must have believed that the resurrection would be spiritual in nature, and, therefore, not subject to confirmation by any physical evidence. If the early Christians had believed that the resurrection would involve the physical bodies coming out of the graves, as is taught today, Hymenaius and Philitus could never have convinced anyone that the resurrection had already happened.

They also must have believed that life on earth would go on with no material change after the resurrection. They didn't believe that they would be on a renovated planet earth as a consequence of the resurrection. Otherwise, the teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus would have been impossible. No one would have paid any attention to them.

The reason that their teaching that the resurrection had already happened was overthrowing the faith of some was that it postulated a consummation of the spiritual kingdom, while the earthly Temple in Jerusalem still stood. This was a mixture of Law and grace. This destroyed the faith of some by making the works of the Law a part of the New Covenant.

Our text is not talking about a physical biological resurrection, he is talking about entering into the presence of God. Paul talks about this in the future tense, because it did not happen until A.D. 70. So it was future to them. But it is past to us.

knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; Romans 6:6 NASB

"Knowing this"--how do we know this? We only know it because the Scripture teaches it.

"Our old self was crucified with Him"--the words "old self" are from the Greek, palaios anthropos. The NASB translates anthrpos as "old self." The trouble with this translation is that it causes the reader to envision the individual's old life. Anthrpos is man, not self.

Ray Prichard writes: "Your 'old self' is the life you used to live. It's the person you once were. It's the 'old you' with your old way of thinking and acting and relating. All of that is gone now. It was crucified with Christ." So he sees this as talking about our individual lives before Christ.

William Newell writes: '"Old man"--This is our old selves, as we were in and from Adam. It is contrasted with the new man (Col 3:9,10), which is what we are and have in Christ. The word "our" indicates that what is said, is said of and to all those who are in Christ. The expression 'our old man,' of course is a federal one, as also is 'the new man."'

If we look at Paul's use of this term in Ephesians, we can see that the individual understanding is not what Paul had in mind:

by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, Ephesians 2:15 NASB

Here Paul talks about God taking the Jews and Gentiles and making out of them one new man, anthrpos. This is a corporate reference to the church, which is the new man. If the new man is corporate, so is the old man. We see this same idea in:

Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self [anthrpos] with its evil practices, and have put on the new self [anthrpos] who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; Colossians 3:9-12 NASB

In this passage we can see that the new self (anthrpos) refers to a corporate community where there is neither Greek nor Jew. The new man is the Church! And the old self (anthrpos) is the corporate Adamic community.

The old self (anthrpos) to whom the Romans have died is their relationship with Adam. They are no longer part of the Adamic community. They have died to the solidarity of Sin and are now alive in a new solidarity of righteousness, which has Christ as its head.

"Was crucified with Him"--the word "crucified" is a compound verb meaning: "was crucified with"--Christ. The aorist verb tells us that this is not a repeatable event, but a final, completed event. The passive voice shows us that this crucifixion is not something that we have done, but something done to us in Christ. That man that was joined to Adam was crucified together with Christ.

Because of our union with Christ in His crucifiction, we are dead to sin, we have been set free from its power. We are no longer slaves of sin.

"Our body of the sin"--what is Paul referring to here? Has he switched from the corporate to the individual? I think not! "Our" is plural and "body" is singular. And also notice that it is "the sin," which is the same "the sin" that he has been talking about since chapter 5.

Most teachers see an individualistic interpretation and say that "the body of sin" is the human body under the control of sin. Newell writes: "The 'body of sin' refers to our bodies as yet unredeemed, and not delivered from sin's rule." John Piper writes: "Your old self was crucified, which means that your body is no longer the helpless accomplice of sin. Instead, you are freed from slavery to sin, and the body can now become the instrument of righteousness."

Ray Prichard writes: "The phrase 'body of sin' refers to your literal body as a helpless tool of sin. Sin worked through your tongue to say ugly words. Sin worked through your hands to commit foul deeds. Sin worked through your eyes to behold impure acts. Sin worked through your ears to listen to slander and gossip. Sin worked through your private parts to commit immorality."

Phil Newton writes: "How can one that has a new nature in Christ, that no longer lives in union with Adam, how can such a person still sin? It is because you still live in the body that remains corruptible. Until you put off incorruption and put on immortality, you will still struggle with sin."

I think that much of this misunderstanding comes from faulty translations. Notice how the translators deal with this verse:

knowing this experientially, that our old [unregenerate] self was crucified once for all with Him in order that the physical body [heretofore] dominated by the sinful nature might be rendered inoperative [in that respect], with the result that no longer are we rendering a slave's habitual obedience to the sinful nature Romans 6:6 Kenneth Wuest: (Eerdmans)
We know that the person we used to be was crucified with Him to put an end to sin in our bodies. Because of this, we are no longer slaves to sin. Romans 6:6 (GWT)
We know that our old (unrenewed) self was nailed to the cross with Him in order that [our] body [which is the instrument] of sin might be made ineffective and inactive for evil, that we might no longer be the slaves of sin. Romans 6:6 (Amplified Bible)

The problem with these translations and this understanding is that it suggests that the body is in some way sinful.

There is no suggestion in the First Testament that the body is in any way sinful or unclean. This is the very opposite to Greek understanding, which holds to a dualistic existence: spirit is pure and matter is evil. I think that much of the church has been influenced by Greek ideas and thinks that body is evil. This is not something a Hebrew would do.

When Paul speaks of the "body of sin," he is not writing with an individualistic Greek understanding of the spirit of a man being polluted by his sinful body, but of the solidarity of mankind with Adam--the unredeemed members of the human race form the "body of Sin." The picture is of a covenant community, which is outside of the kingdom of God. Conceptually, he thinks in corporate terms.

This expression "the body of sin" occurs nowhere else in Scripture, so we must seek to determine its meaning from the context and the Hebraic understanding of the body. The Jews, who have a strong sense of solidarity, normally use the term soma "body" when referring to a corporate reality. Paul often called the Church, "the body of Christ":

Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27 NASB
to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, Ephesians 3:6 NASB

So if Paul calls the corporate community that is in Christ the "body of Christ," it makes sense that his phrase "body of sin" would refer to the corporate community in Adam. The "body of sin" is not a reference to the human body, it is a corporate description referring to the unredeemed community, which has Adam as its head. The redeemed community has forever been removed from the body of Sin.

F.F. Bruce writes: "This 'body of sin' is more than an individual affair, it is rather that old solidarity of sin and death which all share 'in Adam,' but which has been broken by the death of Christ with a view to the creation of the new solidarity of righteousness and life of which believers are made part 'in Christ.'" (Bruce, Romans, 38).

Manson writes: "It is perhaps better to regard 'the body of sin' as the opposite of 'the body of Christ.' It is the mass of unredeemed humanity in bondage to the evil power. Every conversion means that the body of sin loses a member and the body of Christ gains one." (Manson, "Romans", 945).

Tom Holland writes: "The body of Sin is the body that is in covenantal relationship with sin just as the body of Christ is the body that is in covenantal relationship with Christ." (Holland, Romans, chapter 6, page 29)

"Our body of sin might be done away with"--this is the Greek word katargeo, it's a really strong word. It's used 27 times in the New Testament. Paul uses it a number of times in Romans. It means: "to destroy, annihilate, or do away with." To believers the body of sin is destroyed. We are now in the body of Christ.

"So that we would no longer be slaves to the sin"--by faith in Christ you are brought into union with Christ and are no longer under the Law, which brings slavery:

For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14 NASB

Remember, Paul is talking to Jews in this section. To be in Christ is to be free from the Law.

S.L. Johnson writes: "Now this is worked out in time through the experience of sanctification. We're saved in a moment of time, but sanctification is a long process for most of us, and it is never finished as long as we are here on the earth. He is talking about a gradual eradication of sinfulness that takes place in a believer as long as he is here on the earth. Finally, completed only at the coming of Christ, or at our death." He sees us as still living in the transition period, and therefore, still growing into a habitation for God.

Schreiner writes: "Since the resurrection is still impending, believers are not liberated in every respect from the present evil age." If the resurrection was still future he would be right, but Paul would be wrong because he said that in his day there was about to be a resurrection from the dead."

for he who has died is freed from sin. Romans 6:7 NASB

Hopefully, this is where you will see why it is so important to understand the corporate aspect of what Paul is saying. What does it mean that we are "freed from sin"? Does this mean that we no longer sin? Is this teaching perfectionism? He told us that we died with Christ, and now he says the one who died is free from sin.

Prichard writes, "We have been set free from sin. That means just what it says. We were enslaved to sin, but now through Christ we have been set free."

MacArthur writes, "No believer can go on living in sin, because we've died to sin." I guess this means no one is really a believer?

The understanding of this verse lies in the proper translation. The one who died in Christ is not free from all sin but "the sin." The sin of Adam. The Greek word here translated "freed" is dikaioo and should be translated "justified." No Greek manuscript of Romans supports the reading "freed from sin." Every other time Paul uses the verb dikaioo, in this letter it is translated "justified." Nowhere else in Paul does it have the meaning "free from" in the moral sense of freeing from sin. This is a forensic expression, He that has died has been justified from sin. It is he who has died with Christ who is justified from the sin.

Tom Constable writes, "The translation 'acquitted from sin' is legitimate, but perhaps misleading. It implies a forensic relationship to sin, but Paul was speaking of our relationship to sin in daily living in this section (practical sanctification, not justification)." No he wasn't! Paul is dealing with our position, not our practice. We must get this.

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, Romans 6:8 NASB

"If" could be translated "since"--this is a first class condition in Greek and represents a condition genuinely true to reality. There is no way into the covenant community other than dying with Christ. Believers have participated in this historically and have then appropriated its benefits by faith, and now the life of fellowship with Christ is a living reality.

knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 9 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Romans 6:9-10 NASB

Paul underlines here the finality of Jesus' death with "once for all." This finality is shared by other New Testament writers (Mark 10:45; John 10:11; Acts 4:10; Heb 9:24-28; Rev 1:18).

nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Hebrews 9:25-26 NASB

The background here is the Day of Atonement. The writer of Hebrews "contrasts" the repetitiveness of the Levitical sacrifices to the once for all singular sacrifice of Christ. Christ's sacrifice was a real sacrifice, not a token one. It is perpetually effective, and therefore, calls for no repetition. In Jewish theological thought, the believers understood that there was no finality about the Old Covenant sacrificial system. Sin was never absolved in such a way that it no longer threatened the assurance of the one who had offered the sacrifice.

"But now, once"--the word "once" is from the Greek word hapax (hap'-ax), which means: "once for all." Jesus Christ came "To put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." The words "put away" are from the Greek word athetesis, which means: "to cancel or annul." It is a strong word signifying the total annulment of sin. Its consequences are absorbed by Him and thereby removed from us.

This teaching of the Scripture stands in opposition to the doctrine and practice of the so-called perpetual sacrifice of Christ in the Roman Catholic Mass. Roman Catholics are quick to say that the Eucharist is not a re-sacrifice of Christ. They want to make it clear that Christ was offered once for all and that the Mass is not a re-sacrifice but a "re-presentation" of the sacrifice. We certainly do not want to misrepresent Roman Catholic theology, but we must ask how it is possible for the Mass to not be a re-sacrifice of Christ when the Mass is called a divine sacrifice (CCC, 1068) that is done over and over again. We are told that "the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice" (CCC, 1367); that it is an unbloody offering that is proptiatory (CCC, 1367); that it can make reparation of sins (CCC, 1414); and is to be considered a true and proper sacrifice (The Catholic Encyclopedia, topic: "Sacrifice of the Mass"). We must conclude that it is a sacrifice that occurs over and over again and since it is said to be a true and proper sacrifice that is propitiatory, then logically it must be a re-sacrifice of Christ. If it is not, then how can it be called a sacrifice of Christ? Also, how could it be propitiatory if it is not a sacrifice of Christ since it is Christ's offering on the cross that is itself propitiatory?

Christ temporally came under the power of sin, and it killed him. By rising from the dead, he broke its power, and when he came out of the grave, we came out with Him. Remember, what is true of Christ is true of us.

All that Jesus Christ is and has, we are and have; we are one with Him--union. Let me give you an example: I take this envelope. It has an identity of its own, quite separate from this book. Let's say I put it in the book. Now I do something with the book, say I mail it to Pennsylvania. I do not mail the envelope, but the envelope is "in" the book, so where is the envelope? It is in Pennsylvania! Why? Because it is in the book. Where the book goes, the envelope goes. If I drop the book in the water, the envelope gets wet also. If I recover the book, I recover the envelope also. Whatever experience the book goes through, the envelope goes through also because it is "in" the book. Where this illustration breaks down is that I can take the envelope out of the book, but we can never be taken out of Christ. Our union with Christ is everlasting.

The Lord God has put believers "in" Christ. Our destiny is bound up with His. What He has gone through, we have gone through. Where He is, we are.

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