Galatians 2:19b-21; Romans 6:1-7; John 15:1-5comment (0)
April 12, 2012
By James R. Barnette
Related Scripture: Galatians 2:19b-21
Bible Studies for Life
Associate professor of religion, Department of religion, Samford University
Jesus Lives in Believers
Galatians 2:19b–21; Romans 6:1–7; John 15:1–5
We Are Crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:19b–21)
The phrase “I have been crucified with Christ” points to a decisive act of faith when Paul had committed his life and destiny to Christ. Paul’s representative “I” is not just an expression of Paul’s personal piety but speaks for all Christians. God acted to end the power of sin, the law and death and included all people in this cosmic victory. The death of Christ meant the death of the old world.
Paul identifies with Christ in His death, a fact symbolized in baptism as described in the Romans passage below. Christ died the death that Paul was condemned to die for sin; when he confessed faith in Christ, Paul died with Christ. Paul does not “set aside the grace of God.” This is what the Galatian Judaizers were doing by supplementing faith in Christ with observance of the law. But there can be no such thing as grace plus additional requirements. Paul’s understanding of grace is problematic for those who want to do something themselves to be assured of God’s acceptance.
We Are Raised with Christ (Rom. 6:1–7)
Having elaborated on justification by faith in previous chapters of Romans, Paul now proceeds to defend this doctrine against the charge that it is incompatible with morality. The objector might ask, “If more sin means more grace, why not continue to live in sin?” Paul’s reply to this question centers on the fact of the believer’s union with Christ. This mystical relationship with the Savior is set forth here for the first time in the epistle. Paul uses the rite of baptism to explain his thought, referring to the mode of baptism that John the Baptist employed with Jesus — immersion.
Paul highlights the three actions of immersion that symbolize the means to the mystical relationship: into the water represents death, under the water represents burial, out of the water represents resurrection. For Paul, baptism is not a mere ritual of initiation but a dynamic signal — an event in which God is active. The Christian is “united with Him” in baptism, “fused together,” so the story of Christ becomes the Christian’s story.
Paul makes it clear that the believer cannot deliberately live in sin since he or she has a new relationship because of his or her identification with Christ. The believer has died to the old life; the believer has now been raised to celebrate a new life. And, to paraphrase a popular 20th century preacher, the believer does not want to go back into sin any more than Lazarus wanted to go back into the tomb dressed in his grave clothes.
We Are Productive with Christ (John 15:1–5)
It is not clear from John’s account here where Jesus was when He gave this teaching on the vine and the branches. If John 14:31 marks the point of departure from the upper room, it is possible that Jesus and His disciples were passing by a vine which was then used as an illustration.
Like Paul’s image of the church as the body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12), the metaphor of vine and branches is organic. Membership in the people of God is not names on a list but living branches of a living vine. As Christ is the whole body in Paul’s image, so Christ is the whole vine in John’s. Jesus is not the stem or trunk to which branches are attached; Jesus is the vine into which people are incorporated. Jesus’ invitation to “abide in me” asserts that Christianity is never an individualistic experience. Jesus lets us know that discipleship in Him involves one’s essential incorporation into the Christian community. The individual branch has its life-giving connection not only in the personal relationship with God through Christ, but also in relation to all the other branches that comprise the vine with which Christ identifies Himself. To be connected with Christ is to be organically related to His church.
James Barnette is the teaching pastor of Brookwood Baptist Church, Birmingham.