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A Picture of Union With Christ

April 14, 2024 Preacher: Kevin Godin Series: Various Messages

Scripture: Romans 6:1–4

Sermon Transcript:


Sometimes when I try to explain to my kids some of the really cool toys that we had when I was a kid they look at me like I grew up in the middle ages. Imagine the look on the face of kids who grew up with gaming systems and computers when you try to explain how awesome an etch-a-sketch was? Well anyhow, our toys may not have been hi-tech but we had fun. One of the toys I had when I was little was called a lite-brite. Do any of you remember those?

A lite-brite was basically just a box that had a light bulb inside and a grid covering one side. You would put a piece of black paper on the front grid to block out the light and then press colorful plastic pegs through the black paper into the grid. This would allow the light to come through and the pegs would light up creating colorful illuminated designs against the dark black background. 

This morning we are taking a break from our tour through Judges to reflect on baptism. It is a blessing to witness a baptism. Like a lite-brite, every baptism is like God punching a hole in the black background of this fallen world and allowing the light of his love to be seen through each individual believer. Each of us has our own place, adding our own color to the masterpiece of grace as the light of the gospel is displayed through us into a dark world. 

Baptism is a way of communicating to others that the light of the gospel now shines upon us and through us. It is a way of saying “let me show you by acting out in a visible way what has happened in my heart and soul.” Like the Lord’s Supper, baptism uses physical things to illustrate spiritual realities. 

Through faith God creates a new identity and baptism is a symbol that communicates that new identity. It is sort of like a wedding ring. A wedding ring doesn’t create a marriage just as baptism doesn’t make someone born again. Baptism apart from faith doesn’t accomplish anything just as an unmarried person putting on a wedding ring doesn’t make them married. The ring is a symbol of a union and so is baptism. 

Lord willing, this morning Michelle will be baptized. In doing so she is claiming to have a new identity as one who by faith in Jesus has received the blessings and promises of salvation from God. By getting baptized she will be illustrating several gospel truths but the main truth is that by faith, she has been united to Jesus Christ. 

All the other blessings that baptism symbolizes flow from this union. Baptism symbolizes being washed clean of our sins. In Acts 22:16 the apostle Paul calls on the people saying,

And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.

The water doesn’t have the power to wash away sin but the faith it expresses connects us to Jesus who cleanses us of our iniquity. That’s why 1 Peter 3:21 says,

21 Baptism, … now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 

This is something we receive when we put our faith in Jesus. That is why speaking of believers 1 Corinthians 6:11 says,

11 … But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Baptism symbolizes new birth and spiritual renewal. Titus 3:3–6 says,

3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior

In baptism we proclaim that a new spirit has been richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ and we are no longer what we were. We are not perfect and are not saved because of any works  we have done, but we have new life because of what Jesus has done for us.

Baptism symbolizes our confidence in God’s promises for the future.  Hebrews 10:22–23 says,

22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 

When we are baptized, we not only testify to something that has been done but also to what God is doing and will do in us. No person is baptized perfect but to do so is to express our trust in God’s promise that on the last day we will stand before him righteous and be glorified with him. We will be raised to glory and have already begun to live in that new life. We can therefore walk with God now knowing he keeps his promises.

There are several other symbolic layers to baptism we could mention but the spiritual reality that binds all of them together is the believer’s union with Jesus Christ through faith. Baptism is multifaceted because our union with Christ brings us several different benefits that all come from our being united to him. That brings us to our main passage. Romans 6:1–4 says,

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Notice the apostle Paul says that believers have died to sin. In what way? 

Paul says when we put our faith in Jesus to save, we are united to Christ so that his death counts as our death. The death we deserve for our sin was offered in the death of Jesus on our behalf. That explains how he died for us, but there is another profound truth here. Not only did Jesus die for us, but Paul says we died with him. We were baptized into his death, we were buried with him, and we were raised with him.

But Jesus died and was raised over 2,000 years ago so what does he mean that those who are believers have died and were raised WITH Jesus? This is one of the greatest truths of the gospel and it is something that can only be understood through the eyes of faith. When we put our faith in Jesus something amazing happens. We become united to Christ so that in a sense, our lives are merged. We are no longer solitary individuals before God but are inseparably connected to Jesus.

This is not just a metaphor; it is a spiritual reality. This union is experienced through faith and it is the foundation for every spiritual blessing we receive. When the Father looks upon us he always does so with reference to Christ and when he looks upon the Son he always does so with reference to us. His life and experiences are now also part of our life and experiences. Ultimately, baptism is a testimony not just that we have received some benefits from Jesus, such as forgiveness or heaven, but that we have received Christ himself.

To preach the gospel is to preach Christ. To believe the gospel is to receive Christ. Every benefit of salvation comes to us through our being united to Jesus Christ by faith. When we begin to understand salvation as union with Christ rather than a collection of individual blessings, all the tensions between faith and works, God’s sovereignty and our responsibility, being justified while still not being perfect all fall into perfect harmony. 

Everything comes together by him and in him and through him and for him. This truth, this doctrine of union with Christ fuels our assurance of salvation, our walk with Jesus, and our perseverance in faith. Baptism is an illustration of this profound truth that by faith we have received union with Jesus.


I hear a lot of teachers talking about faith without ever mentioning what gives faith its power. This leads to confusion and people speak as though faith has some power in itself, as if it is magic. No. What makes faith so valuable is that by his grace, God is pleased through faith to connect us to his son. Faith, by itself cannot save us. Faith must take hold of an object that has the power to save. 


A few weeks ago, I went into the garage to drill a hole in a bracket I was working with. I clamped the part to my drill press and hit the button but nothing happened because the plug was tripped. It was plugged in but the drill could only work when connected to a source that provided adequate power. That is the way faith is. Faith is only saving faith when connected to Christ, because he alone has the power to accomplish our salvation. Therefore only faith that unites us to Jesus Christ is saving faith.


God’s plan of redemption IS Jesus. His plan for the salvation of his people is rooted from beginning to end in their union with Jesus. 


Ephesians 1:4, says God the Father 


chose us in him [that is, in Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.


All who will humble themselves, repent, and put their faith in Jesus Christ is chosen. I often meet people troubled by this doctrine of election. They try to reason things out abstractly but the Bible doesn’t present the doctrine abstractly. It is always presented as an encouragement with regard to those who are in Christ. Do you believe in Jesus and trust in his blood? If so, then you are chosen in Christ. 


God does not call unbelievers to pry into his eternal counsel, he calls unbelievers to repent and put their faith in Christ. If God will save you, he will save you in Christ. If the Lord has opened your eyes this morning to your need for pardon, come to Christ. He promises he will not refuse any who come in faith and if you come will be raised up on the last day because by faith you have been united to Christ through whom God has chosen to bring salvation. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says,


For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 


That means that our righteousness before God is nothing short of the righteousness of Jesus Christ himself. God doesn’t just fix us up, he gives us perfect righteousness that we truly possess because we by faith we are in him. That is why Paul says in Romans 8:1, 


There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”


It is a bit like being in an airplane. Whatever happens to that plane happens to you. If the plane goes down, you go down. If the plane lands safely, you land safely. Your experiences and that of the plane are linked together. Whatever happens to the plane happens to you. By faith, believers are in Christ and thus his righteousness covers us. Therefore, the Father could not condemn us unless he condemned his own Son, because we are in him. He is pleased with his son and can never reject him, so he is pleased also with those who are in him.


Not only does our connection with Jesus free us from condemnation. It secures for us every blessing of salvation. Ephesians 1:3 says,


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” 


Because we are united to Jesus we receive access to untold treasures in heaven. Nothing will be withheld from us because we are joint heirs of the kingdom in Christ. There are no spiritual gifts or blessings that come to us because of our own strength or righteousness. In John 15:5 Jesus says, 


I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” 


To be baptized is to testify that we have died with Christ and everything we now have we have only through him. I love that song we sing, “All I have is Christ”. That is the song of every believer because we have failed over and over. We deserve judgment rather than rewards because we have all sinned against God. Yet, in Ephesians 2:4-6. Paul writes, 


4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” 


If you are not yet a believer in Jesus this morning I want you to understand the magnitude of what is being offered to you right now through the gospel. What could you possibly have in your life that would not be worth trading it for Christ? For believers this morning, how can we not be moved by these truths to forsake the world altogether to give ourselves in worship of a God so filled with love and grace that he would send his son to die for us?


It's crucial that we are continually reminded of these truths. One of the enemy's primary tactics is to divert our attention from our identity in Christ. When he shifts our focus from Jesus to ourselves, we become susceptible to discouragement and weakness. This is why immersing ourselves in Scripture is vital for believers. Through God's Word, we are consistently reminded of his love and what he has accomplished for us through Christ. That is why a commitment to fellowship with a community of believers is essential. Through fellowship with other believers in the truth, we are reminded and encouraged in our identity with Christ by others.


Our union with Christ not only accomplished something in the past tense, but is the foundation for our life today and our confidence in the future. Colossians 2:12 says believers are those,


having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.


We have not only died to sin and receive the righteousness of Christ but we were also raised with Christ so that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us to give us new life. Our faith connects us to Jesus and thus connects us to the power of God in our life. Believers have been born again with a new spirit that comes with our new identity in Christ. Not only do we stand righteous before God in Christ, but we are being transformed by the power of God, growing in holiness. That is why 2 Corinthians 5:17 says,


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 


In Christ, we are not what we were. That is both profound and liberating. By uniting us to Jesus God has made us something new. We were children of wrath, under judgment, but now we are children of God. Remember our main passage


3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

We have died with Christ and been raised to newness of life. We are no longer slaves to sin. We don't fight sin to earn this new identity; we fight sin from the position of already being new in Christ. Our death with Christ and his life in us gives us the confidence to confront sin and live victoriously.

Understanding who we are in Christ means we need not live defeated lives. We don’t need to shrink back from the battle against sin. Instead, we can stand firm in our identity as a new creation in Christ. Our union with Christ is the foundation from which you wage war against sin, the world, and the devil knowing that in him we already have victory. 

When we come to understand that our union with Jesus is not a metaphor or a figure of speech, but that it is a spiritual reality forged in heaven itself, it will revolutionize every aspect of our lives. Salvation is a free undeserved gift, and the gift is Christ himself. When this clicks in our head it is the most freeing, joyous, amazing, wonderful, and powerful reality that I think any sinner can experience. This is what the apostle Paul means in Galatians 2:20 when he says,


20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.


This is high doctrine. This is the Holy Spirit pulling back the curtain so that the glory of God in Christ shines through. The Father’s love is so vast he sent his son to die for sinners like me and the Son’s love is so deep that he gave himself for sinners like me. The Spirit’s love is so boundless that he binds me to the savior. Yes, this is high doctrine but it is not ivory tower theology. This is profound truth that sustains and protects. This is amazing grace that holds up where the rubber meets the road.


If we are honest, we must admit that to follow Jesus is sometimes not an easy road. We speak of a heavenly inheritance but we must complete our journey here first. To follow Jesus is to take up a cross and to deny ourselves because we believe he is worth more than all the world has to offer. Today when Michelle is baptized she will please God with her obedience, but also draw the attention of an enemy who wants to discourage her and discredit her testimony. To move forward she must believe that in the end her satisfaction in pleasing God is more joyous and more important than any difficulty it will bring.


This is an important question because in the tangled mess of life's trials, there will be times when believers will find themselves drowning in the relentless currents of temptation, loss, and suffering. Each wave threatens to engulf us and pull us into despair. I want to suggest to you that having a clear understanding of union with Christ is what is going to protect us in those moments. Maybe that’s why the first act the Bible gives us to accompany a profession of faith is an illustration of this truth through baptism.


When we feel the tug of sin, urging us to stray from the path of righteousness and we begin to doubt whether we have the strength to remain faithful we are reminded that we have already persevered in faithfulness in Christ. Jesus faced those same temptations and was without sin and we are in Christ. In the wilderness, He battled the devil himself and was victorious and that victory is now part of the story of our life. We can say to Satan, I may indeed be weak, but I have already overcome your temptations in Christ.


There will be times of pain, sickness, and loss and we may wonder if we can endure. But when we think of our union with Christ, we know that we can because we already have. Jesus is not indifferent to our suffering. He is the king of glory and had no need to suffer. In fact, he could only suffer if he chose to suffer and he did because he loves you. He knows your pain intimately because it was for you brother or sister that he suffered.


He has already endured both the just suffering brought on by our sin and guilt as well as suffering the injustices brought upon his people. He suffered to the point of death but none of that suffering was wasted. God turned that pain into glory and Christ has overcome and is raised in glory. Therefore, if you are in Christ by faith, your suffering is not pointless and you know you can endure because you have already endured in Christ because he did. 


You may say, yes but I am to the point of death. You have overcome even that in Christ. What power there is in living a life knowing that you have already died and been risen with Christ. What can I now lose in this world that has not already been buried with Christ? The cross itself testifies that my suffering will not be fruitless because it proves God loves me and works all things together for my glory. I know how the story ends because I am in him and he is in me and I will be with him.


Brothers and sisters, if you have received Jesus by faith, you have become a partaker through Christ in His triumphs and His trials. His victory over sin, death, and the grave is your victory. All of this only scratches the surface of what the New Testament teaches about our union with Christ. The gospel we proclaim is not just about what Jesus did 2,000 years ago but about what he continues to do today. He is alive and eternal life is found in him. 


In a few moments, Michelle will come up here to be baptized. As she does, understand what a profound thing this is. She is testifying that by faith, she has been united to Jesus Christ and through him has received all the blessings of salvation. She is proclaiming that he is now her life and her strength. This is an illustration of the gospel itself. That through her union with Christ, her debt to the law has been paid through death, that she has died to sin, been washed clean and born again, and that she has been raised with Jesus to live a new life. 


Therefore my encouragement to her and to all here who have accepted God’s gift of salvation through Jesus is the same thing the apostle Paul told the Colossians in chapter 3:1–4,

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

As we finish, there is just one more question I want you to think about. It is critically important because all the blessings and promises I have been talking about are for those who repent, turn from their rebellion and self-sufficiency, and place their trust in Jesus alone to rescue them and give them new life. If you haven’t done that yet, I ask you to honestly consider what it is that keeps you from it? 

It is not a coincidence you heard this message today. If you would like to learn more about what it means to put your faith in Jesus I would love to talk with you.

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