2 Sept 2018
A Commentary by John Stott
Romans 6:8-10. (v). We believe that we shall also live with Christ.
Verses 6-7 elaborated the implication of Christ’s death in relation to us, namely that our former self was crucified with him. Now verses 8-9 elaborate he implication of his resurrection, again in relation to us, namely that we will also live with him. *Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him* (8). Commentators are divided as to whether the verb *will live* is logical (future in relation to the death which preceded it), or chronological (future in relation to the present moment). If the former, the reference will be to sharing Christ’s life now; if the latter, to our sharing his resurrection on the last day. It is doubtful, however, whether Paul would have conceived of either without the other. He will write later that, in consequence of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, ‘your spirit is alive’ and ‘he…will also give life to your mortal bodies’ (8:10f.). Life is resurrection anticipated; resurrection is life consummated.
The guarantee of the continuing nature of our new life, beginning now and lasting forever, is to be found in Christ’s resurrection. *For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again* (9a). This is because he was not resuscitated, brought back to this life, in which case like Lazarus he would have had to die again. Instead, he was resurrected, raised to an altogether new plane of living, from which there will never be any question of return. *Death no longer has mastery over him* (9b). Having been delivered from its tyranny, he has passed beyond its jurisdiction for ever. As the glorified Lord himself declares: ‘I am the living one; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!’ (Rev. 1:18).
Next Paul summarises in a neat epigram the death and resurrection of Jesus about which he has been writing. As he does so, although he implies that they belong together and must never be separated, he also indicates that there are radical differences between them. *The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives he lives to God* (10). There is a difference of time (the past event of death, the present experience of life), of nature (he died to sin, bearing its penalty, but lives to God, seeking his glory), and of quality (the death ‘once for all’, the resurrection life continuous). These differences are of importance for our understanding not only of the work of Christ but also of our Christian discipleship, which, by our union with Christ, begins with a once-for-all death to sin and continues with an unending life of service to God.
A homely illustration may help. Imagine an elderly believer called John Jones, who is looking back over his long life. It is divided by conversion into two halves, the old self (John Jones before his conversion) and the new self (John Jones after his conversion). These are not his two natures, but his two consecutive lives. By faith and baptism John Jones was united to Christ. His old self died with Christ to sin, its penalty borne and finished. At the same time John Jones rose again with Christ, a new man, to live a new life unto God. John Jones is every believer. We are John Jones if we are one with Christ. We died with Christ (6-7); we have risen with Christ (8-9). Our old life terminated with the judicial death it deserved; our new life begins with a resurrection.
Tomorrow: Romans 6:11 (vi). We must count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God.