The Me that Was
Last time we looked closely at a universal reality of all real Christians, that not only have we been baptized into Jesus Christ in a general sense, but we have first and foremost been baptized into His death. And not stopping there, we have been buried with Him – certified as being truly dead, with no possibility of resuscitation!
But the good news, is that’s not where everything ended. If it ended there, we would have no reason for hope, no reason to rejoice.
But instead, the reason for all of this, our being joined into death and burial, is so that we ourselves may walk in newness of life – in a new kind of life, never seen before, a life that is outside of the realm and rule of sin!
And so, the first part of Paul’s reaction to the monstrous idea of a believer continuing in sin, thinking that by it grace might abound, is one of shock and incredulousness. For we have not only died to sin, but we have been raised to walk specifically in this new manner of life!
And so, it is into that discussion that we come today to verse 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,
Now, I want you to see this first word, For, for what it is, what it represents! Having given his thesis in verse 2, he established it in vv 3–4, and now he is working it out for us in yet greater detail. Rather than a simple restatement of what has already been said, however, Paul is now going to clarify and explain just what he meant in verse 4. Paul is not spending time on this simply to hear himself speak, but because we are in need of great clarity on these things!
And Paul now provides that clarity in two principal ways, corresponding to the 2 phrases in this verse, threading the twin themes together so that we have a full and complete picture of our union with Christ.
The first phrase, “if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death”, Paul works out in v6 and 7, speaking of this baptism into the death of Christ;
knowing this, that our old man 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; for he who has died has been justified from sin.
The second phrase, “certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection”, Paul works out in verses 8-10, speaking of how we too walk in newness of life;
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all, but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
And all of these things together point us directly toward the inescapable agreement with Paul in verse 11,
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Asking us that we, we being who and what we are, we who died to sin, how can we continue in sin, how can we still live in it!? The idea is a complete and total contradiction!
So, now with this grand view of Paul’s purpose in mind, let us turn to this first portion regarding the likeness of His death.
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,
And Paul does so by first laying out a proposition very similar to the “as, even so” we saw so often in the last 9 verses of chapter 5. But this time, it takes the form of “if this is true (and we know that it is), then certainly this other thing is true also.
And in this case, the given of the statement is that “we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death”, that is what he means by “if”, and because we know and understand that to be true, as he expounds it in vv6-7, then we can also know with equal certainty that “we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection” How is it that we will be in this likeness of His resurrection? It is in that same state as the first, we will be united with Him!
And though I mentioned it briefly before, this uniting is a key understanding, the Authorized translates it “we have been planted together” with good reason. The idea of this union is one of something living which has grown together in an organic sense, as a tree whose limb was at some time long past cut away from a different tree, and was grafted into the tree now before you. It is now one with the new tree, it no longer carries the identity, or even the same kind of fruit, as the tree it original came from, from where it recieved its original nourishment; what had been two fully separate and distinctly different things, are now united together through growth.
And so what Paul is declaring is that, unlike before, we who died to sin now have an essential union between us, and our Lord Jesus Christ! We are no longer in Adam, we are now in Christ Jesus!
And this union is in the likeness of His death. We weren’t mystically transported there to the cross to died with him literally in our flesh, our death is not in all things and all ways identical to His! Rather, it is like His, just as in 8:3 Christ did not come in sinful flesh, but in the likeness of sinful flesh - it is the same term, the same distinction: there is a striking similarity, but it is not exactly the same. How? Our Lord underwent a physical death, and we have not, we never experienced that particular agony of His.
But through our spiritual relationship with Him, that death became ours in a spiritual sense. Just as we were in Adam not in a physical sense but a spiritual one when he sinned, even so we were in Christ, not in a physical sense, but a spiritual one, when He died!
One of the things that a great many people fail to understand in this, is that this work of the Holy Spirit we take on faith; this is not something we experience as you would stubbing your toe, or being involved in some terrible accident. No, this death in the likeness of Christ is something which our minds can only perceive through its results, and even then mostly when they are pointed out to us! In this regard, it is very much like the way in which we see the wind – not the thing itself, but occasionally we see the result in some manner. “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear its sound, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; ”, our Lord declared to Nicodemus in John 3:8, “so is everyone who has been born of the Spirit.”
We see the effects of the wind at times in the grass and in the trees, when it is particularly strong we feel it upon our bodies, but we do not see the thing itself! And it is the same way here!
We must understand that what Christ spoke of in John 3, this birth of the Spirit, is the same thing that Paul speaks of here in Romans 6, it is entirely appropriate for us to link these passages in our minds, and it shall greatly aid our understanding of what the apostle is now declaring to us – this is something which we take on faith. This union is something which we take as fact on faith; because God has declared it to be so, I believe it and will stake my life both now and in eternity upon it!
So now we have the basis to build upon; namely, that we have already become organically and inseparably united with our Lord in the spiritual sense of His death. And it is on the basis of this fact of history for all who have come to Jesus Christ through faith, and that fact only, that we have absolute certainty that this second statement is also true. Since the first is true for all who are justified, so then the second is certain! We shall, of certainty, also be united in the likeness of His resurrection!
Now I want you to see, that this uniting in the likeness of His resurrection is not only in our present future; it is that, but it is also now, it is the certain future from the point of our being united with Him in the likeness of our death! This is the power behind verse 11, “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” We consider ourselves to be dead to sin, because we are dead to sin; we consider ourselves alive to God, because in Christ Jesus we are alive to God. We walk in newness of life now, not only at the resurrection unto life when we will be like Him, when we see Him just as He is, as 1 John 3 puts it!
In other words, we who are justified by faith have died to sin; we have been organically united with our Lord in the likeness of His death, and because that is true, this glorious uniting in His resurrection became an inevitable certainty!
We already now have been raised in the likeness of His resurrection, and, at His appearing stand before Him as He truly is, see Him just as He is, and we will be like Him!
So then, how is it that we become united with Him in the likeness of His death? How is it that Paul can use this idea of being united with Christ in the likeness of His death as the given, the element of the argument which is known and understood? How is it that this is known to be true?
It’s obvious, he says, “knowing this”, this is a common knowledge that Paul is sure that these people far away in Rome, whom he had never met, that he had never taught, that he had never ministered to, already were certain to know and understand and believe. And what is this obvious part they already know, which supports his statement in v5?
knowing this, that our old man 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;
There have been many who have characterized the “old man” in one way or another in the manner of Sitting Bull; as 2 dogs, one mean and evil and the other good and gentle, which constantly fight and the one that wins is the one I feed the most.
And many Christians adhere to such a statement; they repeat and teach it, they make knick-knacks to remind them of the idea. After all, they seem to say, it makes us feel good, it reminds us of that struggle within us against our sin nature.
And in truth, if we believe the song, “I have decided to follow Jesus”, if we truly believe that “I am saved because I made a decision to follow Christ”, if our salvation testimony is that “I invited Jesus into my heart”, if I gave my life to Christ.... If that is what salvation is, then there would be reason to talk about 2 dogs fighting within us, and that we need to feed the right one.
Because if I caused my salvation, I must also cause my sanctification!
That’s preposterous, Paul declares here. It’s idiotic to think so! It treats salvation as some mere addition to my life – and nothing could be further from the truth!
You cannot support any such nonsense with what the apostle Paul declares here, with what Paul has declared ever since chapter 1 verse 1 of Romans, or any other scripture when rightly divided, when accurately handled, when each part is cut straight with the whole!
Why, it is the me that was! The man that I was while I was in Adam! That man is now useless to me, just he was useless to Christ as he was, for all that that man did and was, Paul described in Romans 3:9-18:
“What then? Are we better? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME WORTHLESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.” “THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN TOMB, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,” “THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”; “WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS”; “THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.” “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.””
The man that I was had all of these characteristics, there was nothing good in him sufficient to please God!
And that man that I was was crucified with Him, crucified with my Lord Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, as we have previously seen.
And that crucifixion, like all crucifixions, is a deliberate, violent act with a clear and certain outcome. It is final, for not only are we crucified with Him but we are also buried with Him, verse 4 declared. It is over, it is done with, the me that was, is no more! This crucifixion is not some drawn-out process, some on-going thing that slowly happens and I eventually succumb, no!
Our old man was crucified, again an aorist-tense indicative, it has already happened, and it is over and done with. It is not something which must be repeated, that’s why we are not admonished to crucify our old man, or to get rid of him – the Holy Spirit has already done so for all who are justified by faith! For all who are in Christ, the old man is already gone!
Aaah, yes, but do we not still sin? Do we not still have desires, and lusts, are we not admonished in Galatians 5:24 to “...crucif[y] the flesh with its passions and desires”?
Read the second part of our verse, “knowing this, that our old man 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;”
These remaining things is why Paul references our body of sin! And there have been many wrong and wrong-headed interpretations of this. It is for this that many have turned to monasticism and asceticism, secluding themselves from the world and the things therein, food and drink, or in respect to festivals, in self-abasement, saying “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch”, the very things Paul writes to the Colossian believers are of no value against fleshly indulgence!
Such things come when we begin to think of our body as being inherently sinful. But that isn’t what Paul says!
Paul says “the body of sin”, the body which belongs to sin, sin’s body. Not me, not who I am now that I am in Christ. But I still have a mortal body, and that body is itself beholden to sin, in the same way that a wild animal cannot reason, it cannot make plans and do them - it only acts upon its instinct of the moment.
So, too, does a man outside of Christ Jesus, only act within the instincts of his moment, although his conception of the moment goes beyond that of the animal. But he does not act with eternity in mind, he does not act with God in mind. When he does the occasionally good act, it is not itself righteous, for his intent was not to bring glory to God!
So why is it that our old man, the me that was, crucified with Christ, died with Christ, buried with Christ?
So that sin’s body might be “done away with”, the ESV says “brought to nothing”, the Authorized incorrectly says “that the body of sin might be destroyed.” The Greek word καταργέω means to stop having an effect, to have no effect, to deprive of power.
My mortal body, for which I long and eagerly await my adoption and the redemption of my body, as we will discover later in chapter 8, that body still exists, it is still present, it hasn’t been changed. I, however, have been completely and utterly changed! The me that was has already died! The me that was, was crucified and buried, and the me that is, in Christ, united with Christ, is no longer a slave to that sin. Sin’s body has no power over me.
But he still has a voice, and he uses that voice, sometimes to great effect! I don’t have to listen to him, I shouldn’t listen to him. I have been bought with a price so that I don’t need to listen to him.
But I do.
And so, thus, Paul’s exclamation in verse 2 is all the more fragrant, “How shall we who died to sin, still live in it!?” For to continue in sin brings a great conflict within us, for when we continue in sin, what we are doing is a denial that the me who was is dead! It is no different than the new widow, who continues to make her deceased husband that meal she herself hates, days and months and years after his coffin was placed in the ground.
The me that was, the me that was in Adam, has been crucified, that me died, that me was certified as being fully dead in burial. There is no mean dog to feed.
It is now up to me to recall that to mind when sin’s body begins to call to me. That is what Paul is talking about when he says in verse 11, “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin!”
Let us pray!