23 Sep Quarter Three Lesson Four
Overcoming through Union with Christ
Today, we continue our study of what it means to be overcomers and how to overcome. As we begin this lesson, it is necessary that we remind ourselves of a truth we learned in a lesson from Quarter One that all human beings are viewed by God as being born “in Adam” (see Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:42-49). You will remember learning that we were “in Adam”, the father of the human race, when he disobeyed God and sinned in the Garden of Eden. As a result, Adam’s first act of disobedience is applied to all of us, as if we were there, as if we had sinned in the garden. This is the bad news.
The good news is that when we believe in and place our trust in Jesus things change. As believers, we are counted as being “in Christ” and no longer “in Adam.” We recall that we were “in Christ” when He paid the penalty for our sin, and we were “in Christ” when He rose from the dead on the third day. When we were “in Adam” we were counted as sinful and condemned, but “in Christ” we are counted as righteous and accepted by God. This good news increases now as we come to understand that it is this union with Christ that not only saves us but also enables us to grow and overcome as we walk in the way of Christ.
Just as in salvation, our overcoming is not based on how well we obey the law, how closely we follow a set of steps, or how earnest we are about turning from sin and living for God. We are simply united with Christ, legally joined with Him and eternally connected to Him. This is our new identity as a Christian.
For the next few lessons we are going to discover how being “in Christ” changes us, grows us and matures us in the Lord, and empowers us to overcome the evil one. Please prayerfully meditate on the passage below and provide your answers to the questions as able:
1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 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 6:1-4 (NIV)
Question 1. Romans 6:2 says “we died to sin”, how can we live in it any longer? Clearly we didn’t physically die, so when did we “die to sin”?
In Romans 5, Paul taught that “where sin increased grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20). The logical question, then, would be “shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” The answer given: “By no means! We died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?”
Our being “dead to sin” is a very important truth to understand: when Jesus died on the cross we died too. Just like all people were in Adam when he sinned in the garden, so all believers were in Jesus when He died on the cross. Adam partook of the tree (in the garden) and ruined the entire human race, Jesus partook of the tree (of the cross) and saved all who believe.
This is the glorious reality for all believers: our old sinful identity died with Christ on the cross. Not only did Jesus die for us, but we died in Him. Meditate on this truth and God will give you understanding, appreciation and application.
Question 2. How do you see this understanding that we died with Christ to sin affecting your life today?
Question 3. Please write down the last sentence (question) of Romans 6:2 here:
The logic is flawless: if we died with Christ to sin, how can we live in it any longer? Obviously, we cannot live in as we once did. If you are a believer, your past sinful life is dead and no longer yours. Therefore, how can you live in it any longer?
You see, Jesus did something very wonderful and very precious for us. When He was crucified on the cross He gathered us all into Himself, and there He died and there we died with Him. Our old nature, our past self that was born rebelling against God was judged as guilty and put to death. Our old self was nailed to a cross and buried in a tomb. This is absolutely wonderful and delightful news! But it gets better!
5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. Romans 6:5
Question 4. What hope does Romans 6:5 provide for you today? Please share your thoughts about that verse here:
Here is our hope of eternal life, based upon the historically verifiable truth of Jesus’ resurrection. We were in Him when He died, and we were in Him when He rose, and consequently, we will live with Him forever. The good news of Christ’s finished work on the cross just got a whole lot better with the resurrection. Oh what hope, what rejoicing, what joy unspeakable does this provide the believer! We get all that Jesus worked for on the cross because of our union with Him.
6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Romans 6:6-7
Question 5. According to Romans 6:6 what was the purpose of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ?
The purpose of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is not only to forgive our sins, as meaningful as that is, but also to put to death “our old self” and do away with our “body of sin” (not our human body, but rather our old sinful identity) so that we would no longer be slaves of sin.
It is magnificent! We are not only forgiven of sin, but we are also freed from slavery to sin. These are the two truths that must always go together. The “little child” who knows of forgiveness of sin’s penalty must grow up and come to know that he is also freed from sin’s power. This is when the little child becomes a “young man” as he realizes he is united with Christ and therefore dead to sin and alive to God. He has been forgiven and freed. He is now maturing and growing, as the good news begins to affect how he lives. He understands he has a new life through His union with Jesus.
Question 6. According to Romans 6:7 what was the effect of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ?
In Romans 6:7, Paul states an obvious truth: anyone who has died has been freed from sin. He is applying this truth to what happened at the cross: we died with Christ, therefore we have been freed from slavery to sin.
It is slavery to sin from which we are freed through the death of Jesus. It is not that we won’t sin any longer. In fact, Paul goes on to describe the ongoing battle with sin in the next chapter, Romans 7. He acknowledges that we still have flesh (that which has not been changed in us), that we still must contend with the devil (who continues to tempt us) and that we still have to live in this fallen world (with all of its deadly enticements).
But now we are connected to Jesus the Victor, and we are gaining resources with which to deal with spiritual authorities and wickedness and darkness. When God called Moses to free the Israelites He had Moses perform a set of miracles. He had him throw down his rod which became a snake then he picked it back up and it was his rod again. He had him put his hand into his cloak and it came out leprous, then put it back in and take it out again and it was good as new. And finally he had him draw water from the Nile river and pour it out on the ground, and the water was changed to blood.
And in each of these we see the resources that all believers have. We have victory over the world, even as Moses put the water on the earth and it became wine. We have victory over the flesh, our leprous hands made clean in the gospel. And we have power over Satan as Jesus crushed his head on the cross. The world, the flesh and the devil are defeated foes now, and we have resources to deal with them and overcome them.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. Romans 6: 8-10
Question 7. Everything that is said of Jesus in Romans 6:8-10 is true of you as a believer in Jesus. Please re-write verses 9-10 with your name in place of “Christ” and “he”, and tell us what meaning this truth has for you personally:
Isn’t this the best news ever? Jesus took us all with Him to the cross, buried us all with Him in the grave, and freed us all with Him from both sin and death. Then He rose from the dead and we rose in Him to a new life. Our past is Jesus’ past and our future is Jesus’ future. Through our union with Him, we get all that Jesus worked for!
By way of illustration, imagine a man who is extraordinarily wealthy. He has gained his wealth by intelligence, diligence of planning and hard work. He has labored hard, succeeded and earned all that he has.
Now let us say this wealthy man gets married. Now all he has, all he has worked for, belongs to his wife as well. It comes to her by grace. She didn’t work for it, he did, but through their legal union she now receives the benefits of his hard work.
See dear friend, this is what Romans 6 teaches us: Jesus did the hard work but shared the rewards with us. These rewards come to us by grace because of our union with Him. Through our union with Him our past (impoverished and enslaved to sin) is dead and buried, and through our union with Christ our future is bright and hopeful (sinless, accepted by God, abounding in the splendor of His grace eternally).
Now, as delightful as it is to rejoice in the gospel, it is important that we understand that true gospel teaching is always connected with how we live. Paul provided clear guidance on how we are to live now that we are united with Christ. Here are his instructions:
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. Romans 6:1-14 (NIV)
Perhaps that passage sounds a lot like law to you: “Do not” do this and “do not” do that. But it’s not law, it’s the application of the gospel. These “do not” instructions flow from the river of grace found at the foot of the cross. This is why Paul starts the exhortation with “in the same way…” In the same way that Jesus died for you, you now count yourselves dead to sin. In the same way that Jesus rose from the dead for you, you now count yourselves alive to God. This is not law preaching, this is gospel application!
It is like the wife who through her union with her wealthy husband received all his wealth by grace. Her husband loves her deeply and gladly shares with her everything he has. In response, the wife’s heart overflows with love for him. She understands that she has all she needs for life through the love of her husband and his provision for her. So when the husband asks her to no longer offer herself to any other man, she is delighted to respond to his love and be faithful to him alone. The wife is no longer a single woman; she has a new identity and this changes her behavior.
This is exactly how it is with us and Jesus. He has removed your old identity and given you a new one. He has taken your sin and given you His righteousness. He has taken your punishment and given you His heaven. And now He says to you, “live in my love, enjoy my presence, don’t offer yourself to obey another master.”
Question 8. We count four instructions that we are to follow, all of which flow out of the understanding that we are united with Christ. Please list those four instructions here:
1. Paul tells us that we are to “count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God” in Christ Jesus. This means that we are to believe it to be true. It would be one thing to hear the good news that we’ve been given a million dollars; but we must “believe it to be so” in order to benefit by using our new money.
We are to believe we died to sin and that we are alive to God. Think about how this might change your life by believing this good news to be true for yourself.
2. We are told to not let sin reign in our mortal bodies so as to obey its evil desires. After all, we died to sin, and we were freed from having Satan as our master, therefore we live to God and obey Him as our master.
Again, this has direct impact in the way we live. When we are hit with temptation and encouraged to obey our sinful desires, we remember that we died with Jesus. We remember that we rose up from the grave with Him in order to live to God.
3. We are told to not offer the parts of our body to sin, as instruments of wickedness. In Christ, our hands and feet were nailed to a tree, and our “body of sin” was buried in a tomb.
Consider what parts of your body you have previously offered for use in sinful ways, as instruments of wickedness, and now understand that you are not to use them in that way any longer.
4. We are told to offer ourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of our body to him as instruments of righteousness. We used to offer the parts of our body as instruments of iniquity because we were slaves of sin, now we are free and want to offer ourselves to God, and the parts of our body as instruments of righteousness.
Question 9. Have you offered yourself completely to God yet? If not, we encourage you to right now just come to God and give yourself to Him, holding nothing back. He is the God Who made you, the “Husband” who loves you, so don’t fear offering yourself to Him completely. Unlike the “masters” of your past, God will not abuse you.
Again, think of how practical this is. When we used to use our hands and feet, our minds, stomachs or sexuality for wrong and sinful purposes, now we are to consider how we might use them for good and right purposes. We are different people now than we used to be, we have a new identity. We are risen with Christ; we have a new life, a new Husband and a new Master. One who loves us dearly and Who gave Himself for us so we can experience His love and live with Him forever.
When a person sees Jesus’ love for her and so offers herself to God in response, when she begins turning from the wrong use of the parts of her body to the right use of them, because she is understanding the gospel, then she is truly growing and maturing in the Lord.
Question 10. As you consider the biblical instruction in this lesson, please state what things you’re specifically going to change because of the gospel, and how that will affect your life.