Russell and Duenes

United With Christ In His Death: What Does It Imply?

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John Piper has a wonderful little devotion in the first volume of his A Godward Life series called “What is a Christian?” In it he provides the great Charles Hodge’s answer to the question:

A Christian is one who recognizes Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, as God manifested in the flesh, loving us and dying for our redemption; and who is so affected by a sense of the love of this incarnate God as to be constrained to make the will of Christ the rule of his obedience, and the glory of Christ the great end for which he lives.(emphasis mine)

Hodge’s answer alludes to 2 Cor. 5:14-15, where St. Paul exclaims: “For the love of Christ constrains us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” Piper seizes on the phrase, “one died for all, therefore all died.” This points to the reality that Christians are united with Christ in Christ’s death on their behalf. That is, to use Piper’s phrase, “the death of Christ was also the death of all for whom he died.” And thus, he asks: “Am I persuaded that Christ died for me and I died in him?”

As I read Piper’s words, I asked myself: “What does it mean to say that I died with Christ, that I am dead in Him?” What does this mean in a real life sense? What are its implications for me personally and for my family, for us as Christians? What does it look like? How does it feel? It is no minor teaching in the New Testament.

To wit: “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20). “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” . . . “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” (Rom. 6:3, 8). “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3). “It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him.” (2 Tim. 2:11).

Piper draws an application from the believer’s death with Christ, namely that “all other competing allegiances” lose their appeal and thus fade in our estimation. A new life beckons us. I assume Piper would also say that we count our sufferings for the sake of Christ as nothing compared to the greatness of doing His will, seeing as we are already dead to the offerings of this world. Paul’s words are sobering: “might no longer live for themselves.” Just ponder how many relationships this would affect: wife, children, extended family, neighbors, co-workers, brothers and sisters at church, and even strangers. To live for Christ on their behalf and not for myself anymore. What would it mean?

I confess it feels like a weight, something overwhelming when I think about it now. I start to ask myself, “Well then, how am I supposed to live in this world? How does a dead man interact with the world and people around him?” I don’t fully know the answers. I don’t even think I have good beginnings of answers in many ways. But Piper is probably on to something when he says that “being constrained” by Christ means that “the truth presses in on us. It grips and holds; it impels and controls. It surrounds us and won’t let us run from it. It cages us into joy.” Yes, this is something I think I’d like to know, living my life with a sensed and felt yearning for Christ and for His purposes in this world and for love toward others whom Christ has put in my life.



Written by Michael Duenes

February 14, 2015 at 11:21 am

Posted in Duenes, Theology

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