February 14, 2004

God has quickened us together with Christ

This is what God did “even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus . . . “ (Ephesians 2:5-6).

We are identified as living members of the body of Christ. By identification with Christ, we have experienced a co-crucifixion and a co-resurrection with Christ. “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. 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” (Romans 6:4-5). This is the newness of life that comes through our new identity with Christ.

Paul tells us in verse six that we have been set free from the obligation to obey the old man (v. 6). The dead man has been freed from the control by the sin nature. That is not to say we do not experience temptation. It does not mean that we do not sin. The facts are we do sin. We are not perfect. Nevertheless, there has occurred a radical change in our lives.

Jesus Christ went to the cross and died as our substitute that He might redeem those who were spiritually dead. Now that we have put our faith in Christ He has made us alive in Him.

Paul is so identified with Christ that when Christ died as his substitute and paid the penalty due to the law Paul declares I died to the law, too. It not longer has claim over him. Paul abandoned it as a means of justification. He was saved by grace alone. The law provided no remedy for sin. Instead, it condemned Paul and proved him a guilty sinner. It made him a sinner and it punished him for being one. There was no freedom in the law.

The Lord Jesus died under the demands of the law and satisfied its requirements. “All believers,” Kenneth Wuest reminds us, “were identified with Christ in His death and also in His resurrection, and thus have passed out of the realm of divine law so far as its legalistic aspect is concerned.” Paul died to the law so that he could freely live to please God.

The law demanded the death penalty for all sinners, and Christ paid that death penalty for all sinners by going to the cross and dying. The law killed Him. It declared our Representative guilty and punished Him for our guilt. Because we are so identified with Him by faith, He has freed us from the demands of that death penalty and the law. Now Paul can say I died to the law because I was crucified with Christ.

Therefore, Paul could declare, “I am crucified with Christ.” It was a “past completed action having present finished results.” His “identification with Christ at the cross was a past fact, and the spiritual benefits that have come to him through his identification are present realities with him.” The demands of the law for Paul’s death penalty have been completely satisfied in Christ’s substitutionary death. God has acquitted Paul based upon the death of Christ as his substitute. Therefore, the law had no more demands on Paul and the power of old Adam’s nature over Paul was broken.

When Paul declares, “I have been and am now crucified with Christ” he is saying it has brought death to the law. We are free from all the curse and guilt of the law. We are now free to live for God. Paul is “not saying here that the law of God had lost all meaning or relevance for the Christian behavior. This is the error of antinomianism, which Paul was at pains to refute both here in Galatians as well as in Romans. . . There is an ethical imperative in the Christian life that flows from a proper understanding of justification” (Timothy George).

This new life brought about a change in Paul’s regard for himself. He can say, “I no longer live.” Like Walvoord says,

The self-righteous, self-centered Saul died. Further, death with Christ ended Paul’s enthronement of self; he yielded the throne of his life to Another, to Christ. But it was not in his own strength that Paul was able to live the Christian life; the living Christ Himself took up His abode in Paul’s heart: Christ “lives in me.” Yet Christ does not operate automatically in a believer’s life; it is a matter of living the new life “by faith in the Son of God.” It is then faith and not works or legal obedience that releases divine power to live a Christian life. . . “If He loved me enough to give Himself for me, then He loves me enough to live out His life in me.”

Moreover, Paul can declare, “Yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” His life is now Cristo-centric. It is a Christ-centered life. “His life is a person, the Lord Jesus living in Paul.” The Lord Jesus is manifest in Paul’s daily life through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Paul is dead, crucified, buried, as far as his attempting to be accepted by God in his own self-righteousness. He is like a dead man. He can do absolutely nothing to make himself acceptable before God.

Therefore, this new life in Christ is “a Person within a person, living out His life in that person,” says Wuest. Instead of depending on a set of rules and regulations in order to be accepted by God Paul now yields to the Holy Spirit to produce in him a life that is pleasing to God. He is “energized by the divine life resident in him through the regenerating work of the Spirit.”

I like the way Wuest summarizes Paul’s conviction: “Instead of a sinner with a totally depraved nature attempting to find acceptance with God by attempted obedience to a set of outward laws, it is now the saint living his life on a new principle, that of the indwelling Holy Spirit manifesting forth the Lord Jesus.”

We, too, can now say with Paul, “the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Paul described this transformation in a believer who has come to God by faith in Christ in terms of a death and resurrection. This is the believer’s vital union with Christ in His death and resurrection.

Therefore, Paul prays that God the Father “would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love . . . ” (Ephesians 3:16-17).