“For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (KJV, Rom. 6:5).
As we approach Romans 6:5, the reader needs to understand the context of what is being said. Paul has talked about sin, judgment, and justification by faith before Romans 6:5. Paul has also spoken about the believer being reconciled to God through justification. Finally, in the second half of Romans 5, Paul begins to touch upon the believers union with Christ. Either a person is in Adam or in Christ.
When we arrive at Romans 6, we find Paul anticipating his critic’s deductions from what he has been saying. For instance, Paul would have been aware that someone might say, “Since I am justified by faith apart from works of the law, wouldn’t that mean that I can continue to live in sin?” Faithful Gospel preaching will inevitably create such questions from those who hear it.
Man is not saved by works but by faith in Christ. However, faithful Gospel preaching does not stop at justification but continues to tell of the whole counsel of God. Jesus came to save his people from their sins. Nevertheless, it would appear as though the masses see only the forgiveness of sin in such a statement.
Jesus came to save man entirely, totally, and wholly, not simply from the wrath of God. Therefore, for someone to say that they can continue to live in sin since he is not saved by the law but by grace would mean that the person who thought such a thing would have a gross misunderstanding of Scripture.
In the first half of Romans 6, Paul argues against the thought that someone may continue to live in sin since grace will abound. Broadly, Paul argues from the position of one’s union with Christ. Specifically, Paul argues from one’s union in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
When we approach Romans 6:5, Paul’s argument has already been underway.
“For if we have been planted together”
The first words start an argument meant to lead to its logical outcome. Paul says, “For if….” Thus Paul was concerned with making a significant point in what he would say next if the believer has been planted together with Christ.
The KJV uses the wording planted together, while some modern translations would speak of the believer being united with Christ. The Greek word that is translated as planted together or united is sumphutos which speaks of something growing along with or closely united to something. In the New Testament, sumphutos is only used in Romans 6:5, and the message is of the believer being one with Christ Jesus.
However, sumphutos is derived from the Greek word sun. Sun refers to a union that includes addition, instrumentality, and possession. Sun also has the application of completeness. The Greek word meta is often used to speak of accompaniment or association. However, Paul did not speak of the believer’s union with Christ using the word meta. Instead, Paul used a derivative of the word sun. Sun speaks of a nearer and closer connection than that of meta.
The believer’s union with Christ is not spoken of enough. The believers union with Christ is the source of strength for the Christian. However, the Christian often turns to the law, seeks to live out the commands of Scripture, and repeatedly fails because he makes very little of His union with Christ.
David tells us one of the keys to flourishing as a believer. He says, “Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God” (Ps. 92:13). If those planted in the house of God would flourish, how much more so would those planted in Christ?
Jesus tells us of the Vine and the branches in John 15. However, when Jesus speaks of Himself as the Vine, He declares Himself to be the true Vine. In Jesus’ declaration, we are given a contrast between the true Vine and the vine.
In the Old Testament, Israel was declared to be the vine. Scripture tells us, “And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein, and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes” (Is. 5:2). In the New Testament, Jesus replaced Israel as the Vine. The believer is united with Christ as a branch is to a vine. However, unlike Israel, the True Vine will bring forth the fruit of righteousness.
“in the likeness of his death”
As we move forward, we are told about the union with Christ and the believer in greater detail. First, Paul tells us that the believer has been united with Christ in His death. But let us remember the way the verse started. Paul argues, “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death….” Therefore, Paul has something else in mind. He is moving toward his next point.
Nevertheless, we must stop and be reminded that Paul is speaking out against the thought that someone can continue in sin as a Christian. To be united with Christ in the likeness of His death is to die to sin. When Christ came into the world, He was born under the law. Thus, Jesus came into a world in which sin had dominion.
The Bible tells us that the power of sin is the law. But when Christ came and died, He was no longer under the law; therefore, He was no longer under the power of sin. Scripture tells us, Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Rom. 7:4). Through death with Christ, the believer has died to the law. The purpose of the believer’s death is to belong to Jesus, be united with Jesus, and bear fruit for God. One of the ways in which fruit bearing is accomplished is by breaking the power of sin over the believer’s life through the believer’s death to the law.
The believer is no longer under the law since he has died to the law. However, the believer can still live a life of self-effort rather than faith, and in these moments, the power of the law will hold sway. The believer must learn to live by faith alone in Christ alone. The believer must learn to “…reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:11).
“we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection”
Why does it matter that the Christian has been united with Christ in His resurrection? We have seen that the believer has died to the law. Is that not enough? Paul tells us in Ephesians, “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:5-6). The believer is with Christ in the heavenly places.
The life of the believer is the life of Christ. The reality of the believer’s life being the life of Christ must be laid hold of by faith. Christ is in heaven, He is glorified, and all authority and power have been given to Him. The believer has been united with Christ in power.
Paul told the people in the book of Ephesians that he was praying for the eyes of their understanding to be enlightened concerning three crucial topics. The first topic was the hope of their calling. The second topic pertains to their inheritance. The third topic consisted of understanding the power of God toward those who believe. Paul said the same power that raised Jesus from the dead works within the believer.
Nevertheless, Paul realized that the people of Ephesus must understand the power that is there for them to lay hold of by faith.
Father, I thank You for my union with Jesus. I pray that You would help me to understand and increase my faith concerning my union with Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.