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Friday, August 22, 2014

#16. Baptism Proclaims a Legal Union Between Christ and the Believer, Part 1

Romans 6:1–7 — What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 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. 5 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, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.

Last time we began to open up the subject that water baptism (being an outward and visible representation of the baptism with the Holy Spirit) proclaims the union between Christ and the believer.  At conversion, the believer receives the Spirit of God in his or her heart and at the same moment is really joined to Christ, just as the branch of a tree is joined to its trunk and receives life and support from it.  The union that is established has several characteristics and it will be helpful to us to explore these in this and the next few devotions so we have a clearer picture of what God does to the believer and what is therefore proclaimed in baptism.

The first characteristic of this union with Christ is one we touched on briefly last time - it is a legal, or judicial union.  That is what we are told in several places in Scripture, one of which is our text above.  Put simply, it says that everything Jesus did for our salvation is counted by God (legally) as being our own activity because Jesus did it in our place.  He lived a life of perfect obedience to the commands of God, so once we are joined to Him, we are counted as having lived that life in Him. He died to sin, so we are counted as having died to sin in Him.  He was buried, so our old man, the implacable enemy of God that we were by nature, is counted as having been buried with Him.  He rose victorious from the dead, so we are counted as having risen to new life in Him.  He ascended to the right hand of the Majesty in heaven and we are counted even now as being seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:6).  Whenever you see the words, "in Him," or "in Christ Jesus" in the Bible, it is most likely talking about a consequence or outcome of our union with Him.

Note that this is a legal, or judicial union.  So, for example, although we did not actually (and never could) live a perfect life, God credits Jesus' perfect life to us as though we had lived it ourselves, because Jesus did it in our place. We are born into this world credited with having committed the first Adam's sin because He committed it in our place, as our representative, and we are born in union with him.  When we are born again and joined to Jesus Christ (The Last Adam), all the benefits of His saving work are credited to us through our union with Him.

These truths lie at the very heart of the Gospel, showing how it is that God can be just and yet declare guilty sinners to be justified (not guilty) in His sight.  It is all on account of Christ's work, done for us and in our place if we have put our trust in Him for salvation!

Note from our text, though, that this truth is intensely practical also. Because the believer's body of sin was crucified with Christ, it has been done away with and the child of God is no longer a slave to sin.  The believer is accordingly commanded to reckon himself or herself truly dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  When we are tempted to sin, we must remind ourselves that our body of sin is crucified with Christ.  Whereas once we had no choice but to sin, we no longer have to yield to temptation because of what we have become through our union with Christ!  In the same way, we may work through the other blessings that are ours through our legal union with Christ, count them as being true of ourselves and strive to live in the light of them.

Next time we will want to see that in this union with Christ, not only are we credited with having lived His perfect life, but He is credited with the guilt of our sin and takes it away on the cross.

So think about your baptism in these terms and strive to live in the light of what has become true of you if you have been joined to Christ in the way that baptism proclaims!