And ye are complete in him… Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
C10.1 Christ lives in me
I am (co-) crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Here we have one of the best known verses in the New Testament. We need to note that when Paul says crucified it means co-crucified with Christ. It must also be noted that no one can crucify themselves! Someone else has to do it. When we are born from above we are immersed into the death, burial and resurrection of Christ by an act of God Himself, we have no part in it Jn.1:12-13.
For Paul it was: ‘not I but Christ ‘ in the matter of living the Christian life. “Christ liveth in me “. That is Christ was the source of his life. Paul was, to change the picture, a branch in the vine and was utterly dependent on Christ, through the Spirit, in order to live the life that God wanted of him here on the earth. Not by a list of rules and regulations, or by the works of the flesh, but by the life that was from above. All his springs were truly in Him from above, and it was lived by the faith of the one who was crucified and gave Himself.
Can we say the same with Paul? It is one thing to sing this as a song, but quite another thing to know the reality of it day by day. God has baptised us into Christ’s body so that we can live His resurrection life in our bodies on this earth now! Rom.8:9-15.
C10.2 Married to Christ
Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is a master piece of exposition of the gospel from start to finish. So any brief comment here would be inadequate, but for our purpose we make the following comments.
After explaining our baptism into Christ and being freed ( =justified) from sin, Paul turns his attention to the Law.
Paul’s argument is clear and concise. As long as a woman is married to a man she is legally bound to him and to no other. Any other intimate relationship is counted as adultery. The only way she could be married to another was if her husband died, she would then be freed from the law of her first husband.
We were married to the Law, under its servitude demanding of us a standard we could never meet. But on new birth we died with Christ to the Law and were married to Christ. Now we must be careful here, when we talk of being married to Christ we are not speaking of how some of the mystics claimed a ‘married’ relationship with Christ, the details of which are best left unsaid at this time, and was in reality a deception. Rather we speaking of that spiritual union by this baptism into Christ that takes us out of the body of sin and places us into the body of Christ.
This discussion of Paul is to do with our relationships, firstly with the the Law, and then into another covenantal relationship with Christ on new birth. But we could not be in covenantal relationship with Christ until our relationship with the law was ended.
The application to the true believer is straight forward. By this baptism into Christ’s death we have become dead to that which held us in bondage, namely the Law, that which tried to make us find acceptance with God by our own righteousness. This death has freed us from those obligations, which we could never have achieved anyway; this is in order that we can now serve God in newness of life and not in the oldness of the letter. For it is the letter that kills but the Spirit brings life. II Cor.3:1-6
The early church nearly divided over the issue of keeping Moses’ Law as a necessity for Christian living, this is dealt with in the epistle to the Galatians and we shall return to this theme later in this series.
C10.3 The flesh crucified
And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
The teaching of the Galatian letter is that we are saved through the finished work of Christ, we can add nothing to it. Attempting to add to that complete work of Christ for salvation, or of living the life of faith negates all that. If we attempt to add anything to find acceptance we would then be fallen from grace. Gal.5:4. Very strong words indeed.
The Gnostics, who claimed that ‘secret knowledge’ was necessary for (what they called) salvation, were walking in the flesh. They rejected the all-sufficiency of Christ and His death and set up a system of flesh based works. Thus they brought people into the bondage of worldly rules and regulations of the flesh.
They who truly belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with all its desires. This includes the works of the flesh that try to gain favour with God, and find merit in self effort. To belong to Christ is to surrender all to Him and enter into His finished work. The works of the flesh have to cease.
C10.4 The world crucified
As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
We have already said a lot about the world. All that is in the world is the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. I Jn.2:16. The devil’s deception in the garden of Eden was on all three levels as previously noted.
The philosophy and vain deceit, which Paul here speaks of, is of the world and is not of God. Anyone caught up in this is following the rudiments of the world and not that of the Holy Spirit. It has to be brought to death via the cross of Jesus. The cross brings this to an end. Paul simply refused to glory in anything else, we only need read his testimony in Phil.3 to see this. The cross brings all this to death in the believer, so that we do not trust in anything or anyone else but Jesus.
C10.5 Preaching Christ crucified
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
To the Gnostic sin is the lack of knowledge, it is ignorance and that ‘secret knowledge’ is the key to salvation. This is totally opposite to what we have seen. In fact it was the desire and partaking of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, in direct disobedience to God, which resulted in sin!
True salvation is to know God and this is only found in Jesus Christ. We enter this by this baptism into Christ. Jn 17:3. This was only made possible because of the cross. Through Jesus’ redeeming work at Calvary this complete work of salvation was accomplished.
The cross therefore is the central message of the gospel. It is a message of a crucified God. It the central theme of the gospel in Paul’s day and has been ever since. The cross is the power of God unto salvation, not secret knowledge! To preach any other message, even in the wisdom of man would be enticing words and lead one into deception of the severest kind.
Eternal life is not having secret knowledge but having the Son of God in one’s life.
He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
I Jn. 5:12
footnote: such is the importance of this topic that God has put in the OT several types of this baptism into Christ. We examine these types in the Appendices of section II