What's the first promise of the Bible?
You could well make a case for Genesis 2:17: "You will surely die".
Death is the judgement promised for sin. And through Christ, death becomes the way of salvation too! There is just no escaping death. We live in the Lamb's world and we will surely die. We either die apart from the LORD Jesus or we die in the LORD Jesus. But everyone dies.
I emphasize the point because sometimes we forget this when we speak of Christ's death for us. We must never tire of proclaiming Christ's death for us - it is the blazing epicentre of the gospel! (e.g. 1 Cor 15:3). But we misconstrue this truth if we imagine that Christ dies over there so that I remain unaffected over here. No, Christ hides me in Himself and includes me in His death. In other words, His death is not only substitutionary. It is substitutionary because it is inclusive.
See how Paul teaches this over and over in his letters:
All of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:3-4)
Our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with. (Romans 6:6)
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin… (Romans 6:11)
You died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to Another. (Romans 7:4)
I was crucified with Christ and I no longer live. (Galatians 2:20)
[I belong to Christ and thus] my flesh has been crucified. (Galatians 5:24)
I am crucified to the world. (Galatians 6:14)
In Christ you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism. (Colossians 2:11-12)
You died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world (Colossians 2:20)
You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)
Christ indeed died for us. He bore the wrathful brunt of the Father's condemnation. But He did so in order to carry me with Him through that death sentence and out into His risen life. Christ died for me but - just as important to say - I died in Him.
If we speak of Christ dying for us without being clear that we died in Him, we can get into trouble. Let me briefly outline two potential problems (there are others, but these will do for now):
Firstly, the Romans 6 problem: We think of grace as licence. If we just speak of Christ over there paying for my sins over here, it makes no sense for me over here to live in connection with Christ over there. Basically we imagine that Jesus over there underwrites my sinful existence over here and therefore anyone calling me to live beyond sin, death and judgement sounds absurd.
But Paul's argument is that we died in Jesus. The old self is crucified and the new self is risen in Christ. The cross was not the underwriter for my sin, it was the undertaker!
Secondly, we might imagine that Christ's sufferings for us mean that we shouldn't suffer ourselves. It's ironic, but the cross is sometimes used to prop up a theology of glory!
Here's how it usually happens... Someone prays for healing and invokes Isaiah 53: "By Christ's wounds Susan IS HEALED, we claim this healing paid for in full by the cross." Well there's great Scriptural precedence for linking Isaiah 53 with healing (Matthew 8:17). I'm all for it. And I'm all for praying earnestly for healing. Jesus is kind and He may want to give us a picture of new creation glory even here in the midst of this old dying world. BUT... Jesus did not die so that we won't. Jesus died so that we might die in Him.
The path to new creation restoration is through death. The cross does not eliminate that pathway, it is the pathway to glory. The cross proves once and for all that Jesus is not committed to prettying up this old world. He is committed to summing it up and plunging it into the fiery death it deserves. Only through that furnace will it be reborn.
Jesus has not promised to prolong this old world of Adam's, He has promised "You will surely die!" But through that death comes a new heavens and a new earth. That's where we must set our hopes.
Just imagine if Jesus kept on healing our old bodies. At what point should He let us die? At 90? 100? 150? When can He say 'enough is enough' and bring us through death into resurrection life? That's His purpose.
The cross does not mean we will avoid suffering and death. It means we will go through it - but hidden with Christ. And - yes indeed - by His wounds we are healed. But that healing is not the prolonging of the old man - it's the resurrection of the new.
Can you think of other errors we fall into if we speak of Christ's substitutionary death for us without it being inclusive of us?
20 thoughts on “Christ Died For Us – We Died In Him”
It really seems as if God really did something in our Baptisms. if we are to take Romans 6 (and the other verses) seriously.
But how can that be? It's just water...right?
Some good theology here Glen. Good for my soul, that is. So much richer than the usual mechanistic talk about substitution where the image of debt payment obliterates everything else.
I think it can also turn evangelism into a quick and easy formulaic method - simply delivering a set of facts about what happened over there, way back then. However, if the evangelist knows they have been crucified with Christ, and they 'carry around in their body the death of Christ' (2 Cor 4:10), then they can only be humble, in speaking of the Gospel not just as an objective event in history, but also a subjective event in their own lives. Like that old saying about beggars.
Thanks, Glen. This was helpful.
And thanks Jonathan, James and Tim - three Aussies in a row: must be a first for my blog.
Good point James about 'carrying around the death of Jesus' - it deeply affects the *way* we minister.
And thinking further on this point, it shifts the way in which we preach "Come and die" in evangelism. That's not the price of salvation, it *is* salvation!
I liked your comment,"'The cross does not mean we will avoid suffering and death. It means we will go through it-but hidden with Christ. And-yes indeed-by His wounds we are healed. But that healing is not the prolonging of the old man-it is the resurrection of the new.'" Thank you for helping us see "...the Day drawing near."-----------------We must surely die because we all have an ungodly, unbreathed "evil conscience." But as you imply, "...we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and bodies washed with pure water..." Again thank you for reminding us all of God's promise and His grace in this time
Thanks Glen - really helpful.
I am preaching on 1 Peter 3:18-22 this Sunday (tough gig!) and this really chimes with a lot of what I have been thinking through this week in my prep. Baptism corresponds to Noah and family in the ark being brought safely through the judgement of water into a new life - and is also a symbol of us in Jesus being brought safely through the judgement of the cross and up into new resurrection life. One of the things I've been trying to work out is why Peter starts going on about Noah and baptism at this point in the letter, and I think it's what you hit on in your second point. Peter is writing to strengthen Christians who are suffering for Jesus, and wants them to know that because of their union with him (symbolised by baptism) suffering is what they should expect - the shape of the Christian life is death then resurrection, suffering then glory.
Also... another error resulting from thinking only of Christ's death being for us and not including us - speaking of sanctification as "slate wiped clean, now go and be good" rather than "already made good, now be who you are".
And if anyone has any insights on who the spirits were that Jesus was preaching to, what he was preaching and when it happened please share!
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More thoughts on this...
Those who emphasise Christ's death *for* us might well point to 1 Peter 3:18: "Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God". Isn't that pretty clearly talking about Jesus' death in substitutionary terms? Absolutely - but *how* does he bring us to God? "... being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit..." - and in rising again, carrying us with him into the presence of the Father. And I'm thinking it's this understanding of union with Christ that makes sense of the following verses. Illustration 1: Noah. Illustration 2: baptism.
What do you think?
Hi Andy - that's exactly right. It's interesting that when we memorize 1 Peter 3:18 we only remember half of it! Yet being put to death in the flesh and raised to life in the Spirit was vital in Jesus' teaching (John 3) and Paul's (1 Cor 15). He dies the death of all flesh *for us* and He is raised to vindicated Spirit-life *for us*.
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Paul seems to have a very high view of baptism. It is the means by which we enter Christ and participate in his death and resurrection. Immediately this opens a shed load of questions. Does a high view of baptism lead us away from paedobaptism. Do we believe in some way in baptismal regeneration? Calvin did not believe that the sacraments were just empty signs.
It's all laid out in Romans 6. Through baptism we die with Christ in order that we might live in resurrection life. In the case of paedobaptism, the child dies with Christ in baptism and "walks in newness of life" as they grow up in faith. In credobaptism, baptism pictures the death and resurrection of Christ in a visible way, as a testimony. Obviously baptism also makes us members of the Church in both cases (1 Cor 12:13) By either interpretation, baptism does something: it declares us as members of the covenant people and it engrafts us into Christ through faith.
So you don't have to believe in 'baptismal regeneration' (in the Catholic sense) to believe that baptism does something! The reformers (at least most of them) were quite insistent that it really did do something, as you have noted regarding Calvin. I don't think that a high view of baptism makes void the importance of faith, and neither does it sit exclusively with a PB or CB interpretation of the bible!
your comment reminds me I really must get round to reading John Bunyan's treatise on this: http://www.chapellibrary.org/johnbunyan/text/bun-baptism.pdf
I heard a summary many years ago that was heart-warming and rich in focusing on Christ and the Gospel in these matters, so well-worth a further visit.
Very helpful summary Chris, thank you.
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