United with Christ
The overarching issue in these chapters is Change or how to move from where we are to where we ought to be.
llustration regarding change: When Ole quit farming and moved, he discovered he was the only Lutheran in his new town of all Catholics. That was okay, but the neighbors had a problem with his barbecuing beef every Friday. They were not allowed to eat red meat on Fridays, but the tempting aroma was getting the best of them. Beside themselves, they got together and confronted Ole.
"Ole," they said, "since you are the only Lutheran in this whole town and there's not a Lutheran church for many miles, we think you should join our church and become a Catholic."
Ole thought about it for a minute and decided they were right. Ole talked to the priest, and they arranged it.
The big day came, and the priest had Ole kneel. He put his hand on Ole's head and said, "Ole, you were born a Lutheran, you were raised a Lutheran, and now," he said as he sprinkled some incense over Ole's head, "you are a Catholic!"
Both Ole and the neighbors were happy. But the following Friday evening, the aroma of grilled beef still wafted from Ole's yard. The neighbors went to talk to him about this, and as they approached the fence they heard Ole saying something strangely familiar to the steak: "You were born a beef, you were raised a beef, and now" he said as he sprinkled salt over the meat, "you are a fish!" Debi Zahn, Sandwich, IL
Well, the change we are talking about is a bit different. Remember, the big focus of Romans 6/7 is on how we can live our lives here on earth in a manner that approximates our righteous standing before God in heaven.
As a genuine Christian how would you describe your relationship with Christ? You might say that he is your Lord; your savior; your confidant; your advocate; your model; your God; your brother; your counselor; or your master. And you would be right on all counts. But would you also say that you are joined at the hip with Christ; you are inseparable from Christ; you are fully identified with Christ; or you are like Christ?
Well, in so many words, that is what Paul says in Romans 6:5-7. The focus shifts to being united with Christ
- The fundamental concept underlying being united with Christ is that the genuine believer is cemented to Christ’s death 5a
Two conditional clauses drive vs 5-11. They are located at v 5 and v 8. They are both fulfilled conditions (first class). In other words, in v 5, if we have become united with Him with the likeness of his death we should add the thought, and we have. This has actually happened. For some Christians this is revolutionary way of thinking about themselves.
Nonetheless, here are a few things we do know.
- Technically, Paul is not stating our being united with Christ directly; he is saying we are connected to Christ’s death. (Note that “Him” is supplied). So, Christ’s death is at the forefront.
- This being united with Christ’s death is a result of God’s past act yet it has ongoing daily results in our lives. The verb we have become indicates this (a perfect active indicative = an action in the past with present results). Thus we are even now being united with Christ’s death!
- “United”? Being united with Christ’s death implies an intimate and intricate connection. United su,mfutoj is an adjective meaning to join together. A union between two parties is in view. Some define it as “of joint origin” or “congenital.” This is the only NT use. The verb form is sumfuw (sun + fuw); it does not appear in NT, but fuw meaning to bring forth or produce is used in Hebrews 12:15 “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.” It also shows up in Luke 8:6,8 that speaks of the word as seed falling on various soils (cf LXX where it seems to have an agricultural flavor also). Thus, if we are planted together with Christ’s death, we are one like a single seed in the ground! What a vivid picture!
No wonder Paul speaks of being “conformed” to his death in Philippians 3:10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. His death has a continual effect on us.
- However, Paul explains this further by using a bridge term showing that we are not fully identified with Christ’s death per se. He says we have become united in the likeness of his death. Better to translate “united with the likeness of His death” in order to reflect the word “united” as well as the dative of reference.
“Likeness”? It means something made to resemble something else – similar but not identical (o`moi,wma). This is somewhat different than eikwn which more tightly is linked to the original (Trench 49). So this is not a total identity or oneness. Full participation in Christ’s historical death is impossible. This is the same as statements regarding Christ being like ordinary men. Philippians 2:7 “…but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (cf Romans 8:3).
So the introduction of “likeness” tells us that we are united with the redemptive ramifications of his death. So we “died with Him” (8) not in the sense that we were actually buried with him in the tomb; but that we were buried with him in a spiritual sense. We are united with his “spiritual” death wherein he was forsaken by God - Matthew 27:46 “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" AND THIS IS WHAT REALLY COUNTS!!
- However, the pinnacle of being united is the fact that the genuine believer is bonded to Christ’s resurrection 5b
Now we have the “then” clause. If the above is true (united to his death) then this follows. And, being united with likeness of His resurrection is the primary thought of these verses (main verb)! The focus is actually on our relationship to Christ’s resurrection.
The phrase is literally “but also we shall be of the resurrection”. Thus we probably should supply something to make sense of the verse as NAU – but also we shall be united with Him in likeness of the resurrection.
The “also” kai tells us that whatever is going on in relation to Christ’s resurrection is in similar fashion to being united in His death. So, in the same manner as we are united with the likeness of His death, so also with His resurrection.
However, two other factors tell us that our union with his death and our union with his resurrection are somewhat different. First, the word “certainly” (alla) is a strong adversative – in contrast to being united in death; something totally opposite. And second, the future tense is used, “shall be”.
Here is what I believe is going on: our being united with the resurrection of Christ is with his physical resurrection and the consequence of this union is that we will one day physically rise from the dead! There is no doubt about it - the Christian’s future is secure. 2 Corinthians 4:14 knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.
Alternate view: Could this primarily be a reference to being spiritually raised with Christ (resurrection life)? Perhaps. If so, there are present ramifications. One lexicon summarizes this view:
“If we have become united with the likeness of his death (which likeness consists in the fact that in the death of Christ our former corruption and wickedness has been slain and been buried…), i. e. if it is part and parcel of the very nature of a genuine Christian to be utterly dead to sin, we shall be united also with the likeness of his resurrection i. e. and our intimate fellowship with his return to life will show itself in a new life consecrated to God.” Thayer 5029
- Consequently, genuine believers can positively conclude one thing about their struggle with sin: the old man is dead! 6-7
- So, if the main verb in v 5-7 is the “shall be” in likeness of resurrection (5b), then the first phrase of v 5 “if we have become united with reference the likeness of his death” is a past act that modifies our being united with Christ’s resurrection. And the present participle phrase of v 6 also modifies the “shall be” of v 5 - “while knowing this”
- (Display and comment on BWW diagram vs 5-7 to show this)?
- Thus, here is what we know (v 6). “That” when we died with Christ our old man was killed for the purpose (ina + subjunctive) of the body of sin being rendered powerless and resulting in the state of our no longer being slaves to sin (infinitive). That’s a mouth full. Let’s explore.
- First, what is the old man that was crucified? (KJV “man”; others “self”).The only other uses are by Paul in contrast with the “new man” in the practical “put off”…”put on” comparisons. Ephesians 4:22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit… Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices.
So apparently the “old man” is our natural bent which is expressed in sinful practices. It is our relationship to the tyranny of sin because of our being in Adam (chapter 5). It is not one part of me called the old nature. It is not that I have two natures and now the good dominates the bad. It is my tie in to Adam in my pre-conversion state.
This old man was killed in connection with Christ’s death. We are “…definitely and finally dead as a result of this action as was Christ himself after his crucifixion…” (Moo 373). You can easily see how this “dead” position has implications for daily living.
- Spiritual growth is not simply a matter of telling the new dog to sic the old dog.
- Nor is spiritual growth just “letting go and letting God”
- Rather it is acting on the knowledge that we have a new man – a connection to Christ – and that because the old man relationship has been nullified it no longer can dictate to us.
- All the power we need to live for God is found in this new relationship!
- Second, what is “body of sin” that is to be rendered powerless? It is my entire sin-prone being! My body is not the problem. It is not the source of sin nor is it innately sinful. Rather it is my very person. However, I can only function in the world with a body (to. sw/ma). Thus our propensity to sin is in fact closely connected with our physical sensations – our bodies.
Ask class if anyone can tell us about the chemical element argon.
Argon (Ar) is a colorless, odorless gas. It is almost totally inactive with no power (inert). Earth’s atmosphere contains 1% Argon. Used in incandescent light bulbs. (several sources)
The common translations “done away with” (NIV, NAS) and “destroyed” (KJV) might be misleading. The text is not saying that our sinful beings have been annihilated. The term should better be translated “inoperative or inactive” (kata argoj) like the colorless, odorless, tasteless gas argon. Thus it’s power has been nullified (cf Rom 3:3,31). The ESV “brought to nothing” might be closer.
Because of this nullification, we can thus appreciate and comply with the exhortation given to us to use our bodies for good and for God’s glory. Romans12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
Yet, because it is nullification rather than annihilation, we still struggle with sin. That is the topic in chapter 7.
- Third, as a result of our connection to Christ’s death we are no longer slaves to sin. We are no longer in this state. John 8:34 ¶ Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 "The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. In fact, 6:17-18 tells us that we now are slaves to righteousness. However, just because we are no longer a slave to sin doesn’t mean we are unable to sin!
Ask class to share their homework regarding slavery in first century Palestine as compared to the NT.
Slavery: In Greek culture of first century those who were wise or noble were not slaves. Slaves were looked down on. In NT slaves were totally committed and subject to masters, yet without the scorn of the Greek view. Often there were cordial relationship between slaves and masters (Philemon 16). No sense of innate superiority. If slaves have a chance at freedom they can take it (1 Cor 7:21). (TDNT 199).
Thus, the scandal of Christians being slaves of sin - a cordial relationship with sin? Or a relationship marked by total submission? Or total commitment to sin? This imagery of slavery will show up again in Chapter 7 in relationship to righteousness.
- Verse 7 then explains (gar) how we are no longer slaves to sin – the person who died (presumably to the old self) has been pronounced “freed” from sin. “Freed” = dikaio,w the term for justify, declared righteous. However, the theological concept is probably not in view here. Rather the term is used to connote our being set free from the power of sin.
Note that this is an event of the past that has present results (perfect) and that it is passive – we had nothing to do with it! And it is from sin (apo meaning “from” as separation). The idea is that sin is no longer the source of power or legal claim for the believer (ablative = source).
So here is the the second tool in our Toolkit for Lasting Change:
Tool #2 - Know this: Christians share in Christ’s victory over sin by means of their connection to his death and resurrection, 6:5-7. Do this: Embrace a positive outlook in light of your freedom decree. I remind you of all the indicatives, statements of fact that appear in this chapter, especially v 1-10. “We have been baptized”, v3; “we have been buried”, v4; “we might walk” v4; “we have become united”, v5; “our old self was crucified” v6; “we have died with Christ” v8. So as you think about changes needed in your life, why would you not be optimistic? Half the battle is already done!
This is a real identification with Christ. As certain as Christ did die and rise from the dead, so we have been set free from sin. Therefore, Change is primarily responding to the knowledge that we are “new men” (v6). We must know who we are! This is true introspection. In fact it might be true self-esteem. And then we can and must act. The old man is dead. Consequently, Christians never have to sin (v7). We are never authorized to sin and sin is never necessary. Any suggestion to this effect is pure absurdity. Sin is always a choice.
Ask the class: We need to apply this tool to specific issues that are common struggles for Christians. The specific area I would propose today is Giving Up. So, now what? How can we apply the tool, “Embrace a positive outlook ”, to this situation?”
Reminder: the common “First Steps for Change” to be applied to all situations are:
- What have I done or not done? (Be specific)
- What does God say? (Bible)
- Is this sin? (If so, seek forgiveness and make restitution when possible.)
4. What must I do? (Be specific)
Then list specific actions suggested by the tool(s) germane to the issue at hand.
Points to mention (along with appropriate Scripture) if not brought up by class members would be:
1. Perhaps we should contemplate again God’s wonderful promise made to us by Peter 2 Peter 1:3 ¶ seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
2. When we couple this thought with the present ministry of the Holy Spirit to believers that Paul talks about in chapter 8, we have a winning combination. Romans 8:8-9 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 ¶ However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. This is one piece with 1 John 4:4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
Illustration: From his hospital bed on the eve of open heart surgery, Pastor Bruce McIver asked his surgeon, "Can you fix my heart?"
The doctor, known for being short and to the point, said, "Sure." Then he quickly turned and walked away.
Following the long surgery, McIver asked Johnson, "In light of the blocked arteries that I had when I checked into the hospital, how much blood supply do I now have?"
"All you'll ever need," replied the terse surgeon, who again ended the conversation by walking away.
Upon his discharge from the hospital, McIver's wife asked the doctor, "What about my husband's future quality of life?"
The surgeon paused and then said, "I fixed his heart; the quality of his life is up to him.” Bruce McIver, "Stories I Couldn't Tell While I Was a Pastor" (Guideposts, 1991), p. 244-247; submitted by Hugh Poland, Kingwood, Texas
Perhaps we should pray this prayer from Ray Ortlund, Jr (p90): O, God…we do not see our conversion to Christ as a death to our old life. We see it as a pleasant ornament on our old life – a little religion added in…We condescend to include you in our unexamined lives rather than die to those old lives and start all over again with you from scratch…We need to rediscover what it means to live in union with Christ…We need to see that holiness is not legalism and that grace is not cheap. O God, spread this message throughout your church today…In His holy name, Amen.
Study 6: 8-11.
??? Recollect a time when you gave into feelings rather than following the dictates of Scripture or when you resisted feelings and followed the dictates of Scripture. Consider sharing this with the class.
And our ongoing assignment: Chose one personal specific issue/area that you want to change. Then work out how to use this week’s tool to help bring about change with the chosen issue. (This will be the issue/area that you will focus on for the duration of the class unless you arrive at the point of making satisfactory progress on the issue. If so, then tackle another issue.)
© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2017. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.