Positional Sanctification - Page 3 of 5 (series: Lessons on Romans)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.

For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death. In other words, if we are united with Christ by being grafted together in the likeness of His death, we shall also be united by growth—grafted, vitally connected—in the likeness of His resurrection. We actually share the life of Christ, somewhat as a limb grafted into a tree shares the life of the tree. The life of Christ is our life now. True believers are in Christ, and Christ is in the believer. The point of the whole passage is our identification with Christ.

The words the likeness of His death refer to the believer’s being put under the water in baptism. The actual union with Christ in His death took place nearly 2000 years ago, but baptism is a “likeness” of what happened then. What he is saying here is that no one can share in Christ’s resurrection unless he dies first.

Certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection. Just as we were buried into Him, we also shall be raised in the likeness of His resurrection. Therefore, we enter into His life and become a part of Him spiritually, yielding to Him our desires, our wishes, and ourselves. Just as His resurrection followed His death, so our union with Him in resurrection is the inevitable progression of our having died with Him. The phrase rendered in the likeness of goes, in the original, both with “His death” and “His resurrection.” The “newness of life” in verse 4 is expressed now in the phrase the likeness of His resurrection. This does not mean that they will have the identical resurrection of Christ; rather they will have a resurrection like His. In Baptism believers are united with the representation of His death. To be united with the likeness of His resurrection is a future hope that we can be sure of. Both of these facts (baptism and resurrection) point to a changed manner of life. When we are born again, Old things pass away and all things become new. We prove our faith by “walking in newness of life.”

We also shall be. —This does not merely refer to the future, though the future is included, but it expresses the inevitable consequence, both now and hereafter, of our identification with Christ in His death. This is confirmed in verses 6 and 7.

Just as we have been united with Christ in the likeness of His death (immersion in water), so we are united with Him in the likeness of His resurrection (being raised out of the water). We not only go under the water; we come up out of the water, a likeness of His resurrection. The resurrection to a new life is the result of dying to the world with Christ.

6 Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with,

Knowing this. These are things we know.

That our old man. Our old man (our former self) refers to all that we were as children of Adam—our old, evil, unregenerate selves, with all our old habits and appetites. Our old self died with Christ, and the life we now enjoy is the new divinely-given life of Christ Himself—“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
The Greek word for “old,” that is used here, does not refer to something old in years, but to something that is worn out and useless.

Was crucified with Him. When Jesus was crucified, He was judged by God to be guilty, and God dealt with Him as if He were a guilty sinner. Believers acknowledge that God’s judgment against sin was righteous, and they accept the death of Christ as being the carrying out of that judgment; He took our place—the Innocent died in place of the guilty—He was nailed to His atoning Cross, where He represented us. We confess in baptism that our old man was crucified with Christ. The old man referred to here is our old self, the man we once were before we were crucified with Christ.

That the body of sin. The crucifixion of the old man at Calvary means that the body of sin has been put out of commission. The body of sin does not refer to the physical body. Rather, it means indwelling sin which is personified as a tyrant that has the power to control the person. Sin is regarded as an organized power, acting through the members of the body, although the base of sin is in the mind. Every believer was under the power of sin before He was converted. Even Paul had to wrestle daily with the power of sin in his life—“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death” (v. 7:24). Paul recognized that he is in a helpless state of despair, because he cannot rid himself of his inclination toward sinning.

Might be done away with. The Greek word used here means “to render inactive.” The physical body is made inactive as the instrument of sin, as the result of the believer’s death with Christ. At conversion we put off the old man and put on the new man, as if we are exchanging filthy rags for spotless clothing. At the cross of Calvary a victory was won which provided the believer with the power not to live as he once did, serving his old master (sin), but to live eternally serving his new master (Christ).

That we should no longer be slaves of sin. A slave has no choice either of the kind or length of his service. Crucifixion would bring an end to all that, rendering the body useless for the purpose of sin, and this is how the believer is to regard his body in the matter of sin—the tyranny of sin over us has been broken at the point of salvation. Paul is not saying that the old nature is exterminated. He is saying that since the old man is crucified, the body of sin has been put out of business, so that from now on we should not be slaves to sin.

When we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we become a new man. We are regenerated, and a regenerated person is to be different from a person who has never been saved. As a new man, we become a partaker of the divine nature and divine life—“by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet. 1:4). The Bible does not teach that the old man has been made over or, improved; or as we might say, “overhauled.” When we believe, the new man in Christ is formed in the believer.
7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.

For he who has died, has been freed from sin (Has been justified or declared righteous.). Here is a man, for example, who is sentenced to die in the electric chair for murdering a police officer. As soon as he dies, he is freed from that sin. The penalty has been paid and the case is closed. Our identification with Christ, as the One who endured the penalty for us, removes the legal sentence from us and thereby delivers us from a condition of bondage to sin. There is both the removal of the penalty and the deliverance from the power.

Now, we have died with Christ on the cross of Calvary. Not only has our penalty been paid, but sin’s stranglehold on our lives has been broken. We are no longer the helpless captives of sin. Why? A dead person cannot act in the daily events of life. Anyone who has died to sin will not respond to the pattern of sinful living. There is no legitimate method of terminating sin’s claims except by death. Death both snaps all bonds and annuls all obligations. (See Freedom: No More Bondage.)

In verse 7, the believer is pictured as a criminal who has paid the penalty for his crime; He was guilty, he deserved death; he was sentenced to death; he died—and now there is nothing against him! He is “freed from sin”! When we grasp this tremendous truth we can say:

“Now I do believe
that Jesus died for me;
And through His blood, His precious blood,
I am from sin set free!”

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