Crucified with Christ
In this passage we have one of the most profound statements in all of Scripture about our union with Christ. For to speak of salvation by grace through faith is not merely to subscribe to a formula but to enter into a personal relationship with the one who takes us unto himself in undying love through his death for us. We are joined to Christ in a spiritual union that goes beyond anything organic and certainly mechanical. It is not Eastern or New Age in which we lose ourselves as a drop in the ocean, but instead find ourselves as he heals, redeems, and remakes us after his image into the beautiful people we were always meant to be, and that can only be attained through union with him.
But we must realize that in this union there is another death, and that is our own. This is why Paul says those words of unfathomable depth: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” And this is precisely where so many go wrong. They think that salvation is a transaction: Christ died for my sins and I believe and confess that and so am saved. They will even stamp Romans 10:9-10 as their proof text for such a lame understanding of Scripture which empties the gospel of grace, of truth, and of beauty. Granted, through faith we enter into a covenant with our Lord, but not a contract. The closest thing we have to it is marriage in which a man and woman become one flesh. But here the union is even deeper, and we cannot claim his death for our sakes unless we are willing to die for his sake—and I do not mean martyrdom (although that is not excluded) but dying to sin, the world, and self. And here Paul adds, “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that “when Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.” This is true. I would only add that through our union with Christ we rise to new life which is exactly the purpose of that death—we must die that we may rise.
But even with this new birth (for that is what we are describing), we still sin. Of course, this does not make Christ the minister of sin; it makes him the minister of forgiveness of that sin. Rebuilding the rails of the law to keep us from sinning would prove no remedy. Only being joined to Christ in death can remedy our sin problem, which will await its ultimate remedy on the other side of eternity. Until then, we grow in grace and wait upon the Lord. We have need of patience. But rest assured, the one with whom we die shall see to our resurrection.