Believers are united with Christ.
A person who believes Christians are free to continue sinning betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of what a Christian is. Christians are not merely guilty sinners declared righteous by God because Christ has satisfied the demands of God’s righteousness on their behalf. That truth, which theologians call justification, is indeed an essential one. But there is much more to salvation than justification. Believers are also placed into union with Jesus Christ.
Paul introduces this momentous truth by means of the analogy of water baptism. Some wrongly interpret this passage to teach that baptism itself places us into union with Christ. But Paul had just spent three chapters (Rom. 3—5) teaching that salvation is solely by faith in Christ. He would hardly then turn around in chapter 6 and teach that it was by ritual. The apostle, as he did in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, used baptism in a metaphorical sense. (The Greek word translated “baptism” simply means “to immerse,” not necessarily in water.)
Paul also uses other metaphors to describe believers’ union with Christ. In Galatians 3:27 he says believers have put on Christ, while 1 Corinthians 6:17 says Christians are joined to Him. But none is so graphic as that of baptism; the leaving of one environment (air) and entering another (water) symbolizes believers leaving Satan’s realm (Eph. 2:2) and entering that of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What does our union with Christ mean in our everyday lives? First, it provides the means of fellowship with both Jesus and the Father (1 John 1:3). It also should motivate us to avoid sinning. In 1 Corinthians 6:15, Paul chided the Corinthians for their lax view of sexual sin: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be!” Finally, our union with Christ provides hope of future glory (Rev. 3:21).
What a blessed privilege and awesome responsibility is ours, to have our lives inextricably bound with the Son of God (Col. 3:3)!
Suggestions for Prayer
Praise God for all the blessings resulting from your union with Christ.
For Further Study
Read 2 Peter 1:3-4. In light of our union with Christ, do we lack anything necessary for living the Christian life?
From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187