Speaker: 
John Piper
Date Given: 
October 8, 2000
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so
that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died
to sin still live in it? 3 do you not know that all of us who have
been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?
4 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. 5 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, 6 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; 7 for he who has died is freed from
sin.

Last week we focused on verses 3-4, especially the meaning of
baptism. This week we will deal with verse 5. These words of Paul
are tremendously relevant for everything you do. You can see this
in several ways.

Relevance to Your Whole Life

Look at the end of verse 4. The meaning of baptism, Paul says,
is that something profound has happened to us so that we walk "in
newness of life." "Newness of life" – that's everything
– not a part of life, all of life. Now verse 5 comes in to
begin Paul's explanation of how this newness happens. What's the
basis of it – the origin of it? This passage is about how we
become a new kind of people in all of life.

Or you can see it again at the end of verse 6: ". . . so that we
would no longer be slaves to sin." That's the goal of these verses.
Freedom from sin in all of life. That is why I say that this text
is tremendously relevant for everything you do. This is not about a
little religious corner of your life. It is about all of
your life. How you are involved in politics and how you vote. How
you watch TV and use your leisure time. How your pursue your
business and carry out your vocation. How you dress and eat and
spend your money. How you treat your spouse and children and
friends and neighbors and colleagues. How you engage in
missions.

What Paul does in these verses is serve our fight against sin.
He wants to help us not continue in sin. You recall verses
1-2, "Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it
never be!" So he wants to help us not continue in sin. He
believes that God will take the writing of this letter and make it
a means of our triumph over sin – or, to put it positively,
our walking in newness of life. He wants to help us be a new kind
of people.

He began by showing us that the meaning of baptism is that it
points to our death with Christ and our rising to walk in newness
of life. It is a dramatic re-enactment of our burial with Christ
and rising with him by the working of God in our lives. You see
this in verse 4: "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."

Newness of Life

But now verse 5 takes us a step deeper. It explains how it is
that we may think of ourselves as "buried with Christ" and how it
is that Christ's resurrection guarantees our walking in newness of
life. Verse 5 makes explicit the union with Christ that accounts
for the way Paul talks about our dying and rising with Christ. He
says, "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."

You might think at first that "likeness of his death" refers to
baptism.1 Our going under the
water is "like" his being buried. But that idea won't work in the
second half of the verse which refers to "the likeness of his
resurrection." That would have to refer to baptism as well –
as we come up out the water – but notice that this is future
tense in verse 5. It hasn't happened yet. "If we have become united
with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also
be
in the likeness of His resurrection." This is a reference
to some future resurrection that is certain because of our union
with Christ. So it can't be a reference to baptism, which is past.
So the first half of the verse probably is not referring to baptism
either – "We have become united with him in the likeness of
his death."

So what Paul is saying is that our death with Christ and our
future resurrection with Christ are not identical with Christ's
death and resurrection, but very much like them. Christ died as a
sinless sacrifice for us; our death with him is not identical to
that. And Christ rose as the death-destroying first fruits of a
great harvest; our resurrection with him will not be identical to
that. Rather our dying and rising are like his, but not identical
(compare "likeness" in Romans 8:3).

But the main point of verse 5 is that all of Paul's talk in this
chapter about our dying and rising with Christ is owing to a
union with Christ. Now this is tremendously important. If
this is not a common part of your thinking about yourself and your
relation to Christ, add this to your mental framework. Paul used
this little phrase "in Christ" seventy-three times. "#footnote2">2 To be united to Christ – to be
"in Christ" – is an all-important reality.

Union with Christ

It's so important that I want to give all my attention to it
this morning. I long for us to understand and enjoy this great
truth about our life and our relation to Christ. If we can grasp
what union with Christ means, we will be a very happy and holy
people.

Don't miss the utterly crucial words in verse 5: "We have become
united with Him." United with him! Here is the great doctrine of
union with Christ. Or better: the great reality of union with
Christ. Let's linger here and soak our minds in this reality for
the rest of our time this morning.

There are several other texts in Paul's writings that show the
all-important place of our union with Christ. For example, 1
Corinthians 1:30. Paul says, "But by His [God's] doing you are in
Christ Jesus [=united to Christ, have union with Christ], who
became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification,
and redemption." God 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 and
experience it by faith (Galatians 2:20).

The Importance of This Union

But 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. Because you have the union with him that
Paul is talking about in Romans 6:5.

§ In this union Christ becomes wisdom for you and
this overcomes your blinding, deadening ignorance.

§ In this union Christ becomes righteousness for
you and this overcomes your guilt and condemnation.

§ In this union Christ becomes sanctification for
you and this overcomes your corruption and pollution.

§ In this union Christ becomes redemption for you
and this overcomes in the end all the miseries and pain and
futility that come from sin and guilt – like sickness and
death (compare "redemption" in Romans 8:23). "#footnote3">3

Do you want to be free from the blinding effects of spiritual
ignorance? Do you want to have the righteousness of Christ credited
to your account and be accepted and acquitted and justified by God?
Do you want to have the sanctifying power of Christ in your life
helping you overcome canceled sin? Do you want to be delivered in
the end from misery and death? If so – and I pray that you do
– then cherish your union with Christ. Love being united to
him. Grow in your grasp of these things. Live in them. Savor them.
Carry them with you through the day. Make them your meditation day
and night. Think often on what it means to be united to Christ.
What it means that "by God's doing you are in Christ Jesus."

O how many other great texts ring the praises of this great
union with Christ! We can go to 2 Corinthians 5:21, "[God] made Him
who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become
the righteousness of God in Him." Notice the all-important
little phrase at the end of the verse: "in him." "So that we might
become the righteousness of God in Him." This means that
it is by virtue of our union with Christ – our being "in
Christ" – that we become righteous in the same way
Christ became sin. He was sinless and God put our sins to
his account. We were sinful and God put Christ's righteousness to
our account. And he did it because we were "in him."

That verse (2 Corinthians 5:21) underlines the great truth that
we
have seen in Romans 3-5 – that our justification, our
initial being put right with God, is owing to our union with Christ
by faith. Paul loves to ascribe our righteous standing with God to
our union with Christ. In Galatians 2:17 he says that we "seek to
be justified in Christ." In Romans 8:1 he says, "Therefore
there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ
Jesus
." Justified in Christ! No condemnation in
Christ!
Nothing is more precious than hearing God say to us
personally: No condemnation. Or hearing him pronounce the words
over our guilty heads, Justified! If you cherish this verdict and
this standing with God, then cherish your union with Christ. Make
it part of what you value most in the world.

Key to Understanding Both Justification and Sanctification

But in Romans 6 we are moving from justification in Christ to
sanctification in Christ (though we will see next week in verse 7 a
very profound connection between the two). In other words, our
union with Christ is not only the key to understanding
justification – getting right with God by faith alone. Union
with Christ is also the key to understanding sanctification –
becoming a new kind of people, who don't continue in sin, who are
no longer enslaved to sin, but who walk in newness of life.

Next week we will look in more detail at how our union with
Christ really works to make us new people. Today I simply want you
to see how utterly central this reality is both for getting right
with God and becoming new people – for justification and
sanctification.

Another place to see how central our union with Christ is for
our becoming morally and spiritually new people is in Ephesians
2:10, where Paul says, "For we are His workmanship, created in
Christ
Jesus for good works." This not justification. This is
moral transformation. In union with Christ, God has created us as
new people. This is another way of talking about dying with Christ
and rising to walk in newness of life. In Christ we are new
creatures, God's workmanship. And the aim of this reality in Christ
is good works – "created in Christ Jesus for good
works
." That is for sanctification.

Paul says it yet another way in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "If anyone
is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed
away; behold, new things have come." Notice, there is no doubt
about it. If you are in Christ, you ARE a new creature. God has
created you as a new creature in your union with Christ Jesus. If
you are a believer in Christ Jesus you are new. The old has passed
away. New things have come. Which is the same as saying Romans 6:6,
"Our old self was crucified with Him . . . so that we
would no longer be slaves to sin" – but walk in newness of
life. "Old has passed away" = "old self was crucified." "New things
have come" = "newness of life."

This is who we are in Christ Jesus – in union with Christ.
We are dead to sin. We "became united with Him in the likeness of
His death" (Romans 6:5). Our old man has died. We have risen
spiritually to walk in newness of life, and one day we "will be
united with him in the likeness of his resurrection." The old has
passed away. The new has come. And our vocation in all of life
– not just a part of it – is to walk in newness of
life. To reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. To
become in experience what we are in Christ.

Believe God About Who He Is and Who You Are in Christ

Which most simply means: believe God when he says what has
happened to you and who you are and who he is for you in Christ.
Believe him. Trust him, for example, when he says through Paul,
"And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in
glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). Trust him when
he says, "Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities,
nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor
depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us
from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord"
(Romans 8:38-39).

To become who we are in Christ is to believe these things.
Believe that because you are in Christ all your needs will be met.
Believe that because you are in Christ you will never be separated
from the unfailing love of God. Believing these things is to be
satisfied with all that God is for you in Christ, and to become all
that you are in him.

Believe him.


1I think the NIV
goes astray here in translating verse 5: "If we have been united
with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united
with him in his resurrection." The words, "like this," seem to
refer back to baptism, which is not at all certain. And the
parallel with the future act of resurrection is lost entirely in
the translation. To be consistent it should say, ". . . we will
certainly also be united with him like this in his
resurrection." But that would expose the mistake, since baptism is
past, not future.

2Not every one of
these seventy-three uses refers to our union with Christ.

3I have used some
of the wording of John Flavel here from his sermon on 1 Corinthians
1:30 in John Flavel, The Method of Grace (Grand Rapids,
MI: Baker Book House, 1977), p. 14.

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