“Set faith at work on Christ for the killing of your sin. His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls. Live in this, and you will die a conqueror; yea, you will, through the good providence of God, live to see your lust dead at your feet.”
Union with Christ is a person’s greatest benefit in this life and the life to come. The New Testament tells an incredible story about the death and resurrection of Christ, and when we understand how we are joined to Christ, this delivers a huge death blow to sin.
This Age and the Age to Come
When Jesus came, a new age was dawning. The Hebrew prophets looked with eagerness to the day when God would ratify a new thing among His people, a new covenant, a new creation. The New Testament certainly looks to the same ultimate hope. One day God will bring about this new creation in the fullness of His glory.
According to Paul, the new creation has already started in some manner. In his thinking the death and resurrection of Christ were significant end-times events, marking the dawning of a new age. Christ’s resurrection is considered the “firstfruits” of the bodily resurrections that will take place at the end of this age (1 Corinthians 15:20), so in this way the time of the final resurrection has already begun. Christ reigns now at the right hand of God’s throne in heaven (Hebrews 1:3), so in this way the rule of the Son of David, the Messiah, over the world has already started. We have entered the Messianic age even though the current age still continues. We live in the overlap, the “already and not yet.”
Consequently, any of the benefits of the new age are all found in Christ. When someone wants to partake of this new age, it is to Him they must go. Consider all that has happened already “in Christ.” The whole world has been reconciled to God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19). Salvation (2 Timothy 2:10), forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 4:32), and justification with God (Galatians 2:17) are all found in Christ. Thus, when someone is “in Christ,” united with Him, they enjoy the fruit of righteousness, peace and joy (Romans 14:17), encouragement (Philippians 2:1), heart-guarding power of God’s peace (4:7), and a spiritual union of all others in Christ (Romans 12:5; Galatians 3:28).
Christ Died to Sin
All of this matters because in the fight against sin, we will ultimately lose if we are not “in Christ,” if we are not united with Him. Sin surrounds us above, behind, and within, no matter where we turn. Within us we feel the urges of a selfish heart, a heart bent on idolatry. Behind and in front of us we hear a thousand cultural voices that are disconnected from the life of God, calling us away from Him. Above us a demonic horde rules this world and seeks to drag this world to hell along with it.
But 2000 years ago, something wonderful happened to Christ: “the death He died He died to sin, once for all” (Romans 6:10). How did He die to sin? Christ was certainly sinless, but nonetheless, He was tempted in all ways as we are (Hebrews 4:15). He was born as a man into this evil age: he swam in the same muck of sin that we swim in every day. The devil seized opportune moments to tempt the Son of God to rebel against His Father (Luke 4:13). All the way, to the bitter end, Jesus stayed faithful and died with a triumphant cry: His work was done (John 19:30).
After his death and resurrection, sin could no longer touch Him. The devil could no longer tempt Him. The world could no longer attempt to divert His attention. From that day forward He began to live a true, full, resurrection life, an eternal kind of life. This is why His death and resurrection are powerful end-time events: for the first time ever, a human being, indeed the King of humanity, entered into a divine resurrection-life and is experiencing the new creation even now (Hebrews 2:5-18).
He not only died to sin’s tempting influence, He died to its guilt. While Christ was never personally guilty of sin, He experienced the weight of the condemnation sinners feel while He was on the cross. He bore all of that, and then died, never to experience the weight of that condemnation again.
We Died to Sin
After His resurrection He went to heaven and poured out His Spirit on His people. This created a vital link between Himself and His people, a means for Him to share the life that He is not experiencing. By the Spirit of God we are united with Christ, we are “in Christ.”
This is why Paul can so confidently claim that although he is not yet perfect (Philippians 2:12), although he still experiences the lure of sin at every turn (Romans 7:13-24), he is “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), and that by the cross of the Lord Jesus “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (6:14). These expressions are statements of faith concerning his union with Jesus. He has genuine spiritual union with the Messiah, the God-Man who is now glorified and experiencing freedom from the power and guilt of sin, and the full life of the world to come.
So Paul teaches the rest of believers to see these same truths for themselves: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). His resurrection life flows in our veins.
Read Part 6