There are several passages which speak of “dying” with Christ. Obviously, these are not teaching that we literally and physically died at the time Jesus was nailed to the cross. But Christians have surrendered control of their lives to Jesus in recognizing him as their Lord. They have “died” to sin, by committing to follow Christ rather than Satan.
“Faithful is the saying: For if we died with him, we shall also live with him,” (2 Tim. 2:11). Notice that Paul places Inspiration’s stamp of approval upon this trustworthy saying. Living eternally with Jesus Christ depends upon our “dying” with him in this life. Surely dying with him includes the concept of willingly “taking up our cross” and following him—even unto death, (Mt. 16:24-25; Rev. 2:10). Being “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20) means being willing to follow him wherever he leads, even if it is up a hill called Calvary.
“Dying” to Christ is going to affect who or what we follow in life. Paul used this argument to teach the Colossians not to subject themselves to the old law of Moses. “If ye died with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, do ye subject yourselves to ordinances,” (Col. 2:20). Why would any person elevate the Mosaic law above the law of Christ? Similarly, why today would anyone elevate man-made laws and traditions above the gospel? The fact that we have died to Christ means that we have solemnly committed to be guided by nothing but the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth. For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God,” (Col. 3:2-3).
Sometimes we speak of being “dead” to things which formerly attracted us. This means that they no longer interest us in the same way, and have lost their power over us completely. As Mr. Chisholm so beautifully expressed it, we are “Buried with Christ my blessed Redeemer. Dead to the old life of folly and sin. Satan may call, the world may entreat me. There is no voice that answers within. Dead to the world to voices that call me. Living anew, obedient but free. Dead to the joys that once did enthrall me. Yet ’tis not I, Christ liveth in me.”
Is it not fitting that this “death” occurs at the watery grave of baptism? Here is the culmination of our hearing and belief of the gospel, and our determination to turn from sin. Here in a trusting, passive act, we are willingly lowered by the arms of another into the grave, and buried just as our Savior willingly died and was buried. “Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death,” (Rom. 6:3)?
And why? Why do we surrender the life given to us by God? Why not, as does most of the world, cling to that life until the last selfish breath? Because we have come to understand that there is something far greater than living for ourselves. “We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life,” (Rom. 6:4). We recognize that our lives can truly be sublime only as they are blended into the life of Jesus Christ.
“Dying” turns out to be a new way of thinking about living. “Sin hath no more its cruel dominion. Walking “in newness of life” I am free. Glorious life of Christ my Redeemer Which He so richly shareth with me.”
And this new way of looking at life includes the hope and promise of eternal life hereafter. “For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection,” (Rom. 6:5). Which means if we have been scripturally baptized, and walk thereafter in newness of life, we have the hope of eternallife in heaven. “But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him,” (Rom. 6:8).
Living thus, we can confidently say with Paul, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me,” (Gal. 2:20). If need be, we join him on that old rugged cross, because it is no longer we who are in charge of our lives. He who gave his life for us is now in control. He is the Lord of our lives, the Pilot of our pilgrimage, and the Savior of our souls!
by Robert C. Veil, Jr.