Union with Christ Means New Life

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 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. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:1–5, ESV)

Union with Christ – What was True of Jesus is True of Us

What is union with Christ? Here is David Needham’s definition, “What was true for Jesus is true of us.” [1] The first union is Jesus with us. The incarnation was Jesus unifying with humanity by becoming human. So, Jesus united with us in the incarnation. In salvation, we unite with him.

This is salvation glue in which God joins us spiritually to the works of Jesus. When he died to sin, so did we. When he was buried in complete death, we were completely dead with him. When he was resurrected, in the eyes of God, we were resurrected too. Everything that was true of Jesus is true of us.

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Is Grace Permission to Sin?

Is Salvation by Grace from Sin Permission to Sin?

This is my summary of the question, “are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1) Paul is not making this question up. It was either the active approach of Christians in the early church or the charge against Paul for preaching salvation by grace through faith. Probably both.

There is a word used to describe people who take the position that the Christian has no responsibility to obedience yet remains under the grace of God.

 Antinomian =  Anti (No) Nomos (Law)

Nobody thinks they are antinomian. There are no antinomian societies. Nobody introduces themselves as an antinomian: Hi, I’m Bob, I’m an antinomian. Everybody presents themselves as champions of grace. Their books have grace in the name. They sing Amazing Grace with gusto. The issue is whether obedience or sanctification are necessary byproducts of genuine saving faith. Does justification change anything in us? Antinomians dismiss any role God’s commands play in salvation by grace.

God’s Grace >> Our Sin

God’s Grace >> Our Sin

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:18-21)

His grace isn’t simply greater than our sin, it is far greater than all our sin and guilt. He neither lacks grace nor the desire to apply it to us. He is not frugal with his grace, he is lavish with his grace. Why?

“So that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:21)

How complete a victory does something have to be to be considered a “reign?”

All for One and One for All

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:12-17 ESV)

A type or typology refers to things in the Old Testament which were foreshadows of things to come. They illustrated or gave the sense of something to be fulfilled in the New Covenant in a more spectacular way. So easy ones are what Hebrews describes regarding the temple and the Levitical system. It’s not that hard to see how killing a lamb for sin in the Old Testament was a type of the death of Jesus for all our sins. Or how the high priest in the temple representing Israel to God was a type or picture of Jesus representing us as our priest to God.

So how is Adam a type? Adam was a type of Jesus by representing all of us when he sinned.

Enemy Love

God’s enemy love is a reconciling love

“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.(Romans 5:9-11, ESV)

In these verses, Paul employs an argument from the greater to the lesser. You see much more repeated in verses 9, 10, and 11. In each case Paul says,

If God has done ________ in the past, he most certainly will do __________ in the future.

The thing in the past was the harder thing. If God has already done the harder thing in the past, then we can be confident he will do the easier thing in the future. So, let’s see what he has done.

All About Him: Peace Through Jesus

Romans 5:1-2 begins a new section in Romans in which the implications of chapters 1-4 are applied to salvation, living as a Christian, the question of the Jews’ salvation, and practical matters in chapter 12 and following. Chapter 5, verse 1 has one of the most important “therefores” ever.

What is drawing to conclusion? Chapter 1 says all Gentiles are under God’s wrath. Chapter 2 says the Jewish people are under God’s wrath. Chapter 3 shows us that a right standing before God is possible by faith as God declares us righteous via justification. This is not earned, merited, or accomplished by us. It is entirely earned, merited, and accomplished by Jesus’ death on the cross in our place for our sins. His righteousness is given to us as a gift which grants us eternal standing before God and eternal glory to Jesus. It is a gift to us and glory to him. In chapter 4, we find that even Abraham, the hero of the Old Testament story, was saved by faith. How can anyone think they are saved by a good life if even Abraham had to be saved by faith? This leads to this wonderful “Therefore.” “Therefore” means, based on all that I have said thus far, it means this.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1–2, ESV)

How Faith Lives on a Promise

Sustaining Faith Does with Life What Saving Faith Does with Jesus

“But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:23-25)

We begin with saving faith, for surely that is Paul’s focus here. He reemphasizes that when Genesis 15 tells us that when God credited Abraham righteousness by faith, it was written down for our instruction. If even Abraham was saved by faith, then who are we to think our righteousness or moral awesomeness can save us? If Abraham was saved by faith, then so must we. Here is the promise. It will be counted to us [same words as Abraham] who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord. Abraham believed God and was justified. Paul urges us to Abraham-like faith.

By the way, who has it easier? You or Abraham? What if rather than the entire New Testament and the ongoing story of the gospel for the 2,000 years of the church, all you had was what Abraham had? Your descendants will be like the stars and through you all nations will be blessed. (Genesis 15:5; 17:16) That’s it. All you got. All you know to trust in. Now you see how we are in such a privileged and blessed place in history as we have so much more revelation and evidence of God’s trustworthiness. How? God fulfilled his Abrahamic promise. Jesus has come. The New Testament bears witness. History bears witness. The church bears witness. God’s people bear witness. We have so much more than Abraham! If Abraham could trust God’s promise with the little he had and be saved, might you today place your trust in what God’s promise fulfilled with Jesus dying for your sins? That’s where Paul goes.

“It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.(Romans 4:24-25)

The essential gospel. Jesus was delivered over by the Father to mankind for mankind’s sin. He was raised back to life for our justification authenticating that God’s promise of salvation is true. God will declare us righteous forever if our hope, faith, and trust are in Jesus and what he did for us on the cross and in his resurrection. That is saving faith. But notice that for Abraham there is a lot of living after God makes his promise in Genesis 15. Abraham would wait 25 years for God to fulfill his promise of a son.

This is so helpful as we sometimes think there is one kind of faith that saves us and one kind of faith that sustains us. No. Not at all. It is the same kind of faith. Abraham believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness and Abraham continued to believe and it sustained him as he waited a quarter century for God to fulfill his promise.

Faith’s role in the Christian life is the same. The same faith that I expressed in trusting my eternal destiny to Jesus, I continue to apply to the ongoing issues in my life. If I can trust God for the big things by faith, shouldn’t I trust him for the daily things by faith?

Scripture urges us to see that God’s promises include the big and the small. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) Do you see the argument from the greater to the lesser? Friends, what are we so afraid of? What are we worrying about? God’s promises are true even when life seems to call his reliability into question. That’s the power of Abraham’s example as there are probably no more unlikely circumstances in which God could come through then 100-year-old Abraham bearing a son by 90-year-old Sarah.

“Let us also remember, that the condition of us all is the same with that of Abraham. All things around us are in opposition to the promises of God: He promises immortality; we are surrounded with mortality and corruption: He declares that he counts us just; we are covered with sins: He testifies that he is propitious and kind to us; outward judgments threaten his wrath. What then is to be done? We must with closed eyes pass by ourselves and all things connected with us, that nothing may hinder or prevent us from believing that God is true.” (John Calvin) [1]

Imagine it’s the dead of winter and you, for whatever reason, must cross a frozen river. You must get from one side to the other side. But you hear the ice cracking and making noises and you wonder, will this hold me? So, you take your first step and you hear, crack! You take your next step and you hear a louder crack! You think you feel the ice giving way and so you quickly lay down on the ice spread eagle. You slowly inch your way across, each movement terrifying you that it will be your last. You are halfway across the river and are sure you are about to die when you look over and here comes across the frozen river a concrete truck. It passes by you. The driver grins and waves and you watch it get to the other bank and go up on to the road.

What do you do? Do you remain spread eagle and crawling? No. You think, if this ice can take the concrete truck than it certainly can handle my weight. You stand up and walk with confidence to the other side.

What is Romans 4 teaching? The ice is the power and promises of God. The cracking is the fearful sounds and terrors of life all around us. The concrete truck is Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. If God’s promise can hold up the weight of our eternal salvation, then should I be able to trust him in the cracking trials of life, in the scary health moments, in the parenting trials, the job loss, the relational pains, the cracking sounds of the uncertainties of life?

Faith sees God’s faithfulness to his promise in Scripture and in his Son and applies the same promise-trusting faith to the daily struggle of life. This fights our fears and allows us to stand up, brush off the snow and ice, and to walk forward in life confident that while I may tremble on the ice, the ice will never tremble under me.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2018 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] John Calvin as quoted by Douglas J. Moo, Romans: New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, p. 1132.

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