Crucified with Christ

By Beth Hyduke

What does it mean to be crucified with Christ? The most relevant passage that comments on this theme — the theme of believers dying with Jesus Christ — is found in Romans 6:1-11:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him. The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Emphasis added)
As Paul is known for doing, this passage is chock full of information and some pretty deep, complex themes and ideas he has been leading up to in the previous 5 chapters, so let's unpack it a little bit and examine what Paul is really saying here.

The first 4 verses of Romans 6 largely deal with baptism symbolism and the correlation between burial and resurrection and the outward sign of death to sin and birth to new righteousness, which is baptism. But Paul quickly moves from speaking about the sign and symbol to speaking about the greater, underlying spiritual reality. As we all know, it is possible for false converts to receive the outward sign of baptism without ever experiencing the inward spiritual change to which baptism points. It is the inward reality that Paul begins to address starting in verse 5. He writes, "For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His." Paul is saying that there is an inseparable union that God institutes between Christ and the believer (those "baptized into Christ Jesus," verse 3). For us, this God-established union means that what happened to Christ on the Cross is applied to believers through faith, so that in God's eyes, Christ's death is reckoned to us, and He sees the death that Christ experienced on the Cross as having happened to us — as having been our own death.

This is not the first time Paul has used union terminology to describe spiritual reality. If you flip back a page or two, to Romans 5:12-21, you will find that Paul is building on previously laid groundwork. In this earlier passage, Paul juxtaposes two unions — the union of those who are "in Adam" and the union of those who are "in Christ." Basically the idea is that all of us are to be found in one of these two representatives. Every person belongs to one family or the other, and the members of each family receive a very different inheritance based on their membership to their respective family. If you are descended from Adam you inherit condemnation and death (Romans 5:12, 16-18) through the sin nature passed down to you by birth; if you are in Christ you have been spiritually born again, and receive justification (Romans 5:18), sanctification (Romans 6:5), and eternal life (Romans 5:21) as your spiritual inheritance.

Because God has grafted Christian believers into this union with Christ, we are inexorably bound up in Him and partake of His fate. We share in His suffering, rejection, and death (Romans 8:17, Philippians 3:10, 1 Peter 4:13) and we also share in the present and future blessings and benefits of what He accomplished — His resurrection, glorification, inheritance, and eternal rule (Romans 8:17, 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, Galatians 4:7, 2 Timothy 2:12, 1 Peter 1:4). So, "if we died with Christ...we will also live with Him" (Romans 6:8, 2 Timothy 2:11).

Romans 6:2 states, "We are those who have died to sin..." Paul uses the present perfect tense to convey the reality of this death that is experienced by all believers. Grammatically, present perfect tense is used to express a past event that has present consequences, and this is exactly how it is for the Christian believer. Our death is a past event because the believer's death is linked to Jesus' historical death on the Cross. On the day in history that Jesus died, God finalized His plan of redemption for every past believer as well as every future believer to be born. Jesus' death was "once for all" (Romans 6:10) so although our death to sin is applied to us now and we experience it working within us in the present sense through our faith, it was previously accomplished for us through our union with Christ on that fateful day 2000 years ago when He died for us on the Cross.

Verse 6 specifies that it is "our old self" that was crucified with Jesus and is dead to sin. The "old self" refers to our unregenerate, pre-salvation condition; it is everything that we were when we were in Adam, before God brought us into new union with Christ. John Piper defines the old self in these terms: "The 'old self' is me — but different than I have become. The 'old self' is the 'me' that was rebellious against God, and insubordinate to God's law, and blind to God's glory, and unbelieving towards His promises." This is the self that Paul refers to in Galatians 2:20 when he explicitly states, "I have been crucified with Christ..." When our old self dies, when we die to sin, we are set free from its condemning power and its compelling authority over our lives (Romans 6:6-7).

The old selves of believers have died with Christ. What happened to Him has happened to us in Him; if you are a Chrisrian believer, it means that God united you to His Son. Within the permanent bonds of this union, you died with Christ on the day Christ died. Because you have died, sin's condemning power and guilt no longer hold sway over your life or your destiny. Your identity is found in Christ, it is tied to Christ, it is bound up in Christ. Because He has passed from death to life, you have passed from death to life (John 5:24, 6:57, 11:25; Romans 14:9; 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, 1 Thessalonians 5:10). Because of His work on the Cross, you have already been justified, you are in the process of being sanctified, and one day, you will be glorif ied. We die with Him and we live to Him because we are in Him. That is the essential Easter message and it is worthy of our deepest worship, reverence, and joy.

Christus resurrexit!

Image Credit: MichaelGaida; ; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Jesus-Christ

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Published 4-4-16