Verses 6:12–23

DIGGING DEEPER

In the first part of this chapter Paul explained that Christ has broken the bonds of sin that enslave the Christian (vv. 1–14). In the second part he warned that even though we are free we can become enslaved to sin by yielding to temptation (vv. 15–23; cf. John 8:34). Rather we should voluntarily yield ourselves as slaves to righteousness. (Constable pg 74)

SOME KEY IDEAS IN THIS PASSAGE

With Christ” — Paul’s use of σὺν (with) to describe the relations between Christ and the Christian is an important and controversial aspect of his Chrsitology and soteriology. Paul brings Christ and believers together with the preposition σὺν 32 times; they can be put into nine categories:

  • The believer’s “dying with” Christ
  • The believer’s “being crucified with” Christ
  • The believer’s being “raised with” Christ in the past
  • The believer’s being “raised with” Christ in the past
  • The believer’s “coming to life with” Christ
  • The believer’s being “seated with” Christ in “the heavenlies”
  • The believer’s being “with” Christ in this life
  • The believer’s eventual deliverance “with” Christ (various verbs)
  • The believer’s being “with” Christ after death/parousia (presence, arrival, or official visit)

We note that the greatest number of occurrences are eschatological; and many interpreters think that Paul has taken his “with Christ” concept from apocalyptic. these references would therefore be the earliest stratum of tradition, with a movement over time to use the language of earlier phases of the believer’s experience until the allegedly post-Pauline “realized” eschatology of Colossians and Ephesians is reached. But is is also quite possible that Paul is himself the originator of the conception. We have no reason to think that the idea of a past spiritual resurrection of believers with Christ is post-Pauline; the idea is clearly assumed in Rom. 6:1–11. Paul’s [with Christ] language must certainly be related to his more commonly [in Christ] language. But it is probably overly simple to think that the former relates to the Christian’s past and future while the latter describes present experience.

What does this “withness” indicate, then? We must not insist that every occurrence have precisely the same significance. As Tannehill points out, [with Christ] is not a formula but a motif. Often the ideas of correspondence (“as Christ, so we”) and/or causality (“because Christ, so we”) are present. But Paul would not have chosen to use the preposition [with] if this were all that was meant. Although the temporal is not always present, the idea of participation or association does seem to be basic to the expressions. In other words, Paul’s “with Christ” language cannot be reduced to the ideas of “modeling” or “repetition.” In order to go further, we must move beyond grammar. As J. A. T. Robinson says, Paul “clearly feels the manifest inadequacy of language to convey the unique `withness’ that Christians have in Christ.”

The theological concept that grounds and motivates the “with Christ” language of Paul is his understanding of Christ as a representative, even inclusive, figure.12 Rom. 5:12–21 has established that Christ’s “obedience”/”act of righteousness” affects all who belong to him. Davies (102–4) refers in this regard to the Jewish teaching that every generation was to _consider itself as having taken part in the Exodus (e.g., m. Pesalj. 10). As Tannehill notes, it is but a “short step” to the inference that Christ’s death is a corporate or inclusive act, so that his death is at the same time the death of all those who are “in” him. 13 And Paul takes just this step in 2 Cor. 5:14: “One died on behalf of all; therefore all died.” The death of Christ is also the death of all whom he represents.

Even though it has been popular to call this union a “mystical” one, this language is best avoided as suggesting an ontological or natural union. In the case of both Adam and Christ, the union between them and those whom they represent is primarily — and in Christ’s case perhaps exclusively — forensic. Because he is our representative, the judgment or decision that has fallen on Christ falls also on those who come to belong to him. Seen in this light, the “participationist” language of Paul is at the service of, and determined by, his forensic or “judicial” conception of the work of Christ. There is no conflict between these two Pauline conceptions. We must also avoid absolutizing any one of Paul’s many ways of conceiving our relationship to Christ: for example, “we in Christ,” “Christ in us,” and “Christ for us.” Each of these says something important about what God has done for us in Christ and how he has done it, but none should be taken ontologically. Only when this happens do inevitable difficulties arise in working out the logical relationship among them. (Moo pg 391–395)

SOME REFLECTION QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to transform your life? (Wiersbe 1:533) Does your life reflect a complete submission to grace?
  • In what ways do you still subject yourself to the law? What would repentance look like for you?
  • How does this passage influence or change your missional lifestyle and microchurch?