Q. What further advantage do we receive from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross?
A. Through Christ’s death our old selves are crucified, put to death, and buried with him, so that the evil desires of the flesh may no longer rule us, but that instead we may dedicate ourselves as an offering of gratitude to him.
Theological: Romans 6 (among other passages) teaches us that we were buried with Christ in baptism. The blessings of that baptism are received by faith: “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” (Col 2:12). By faith we’re united with Christ; we’re brought into his life, death, resurrection and current heavenly reign. By faith, we are bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. This is, indeed, a great mystery. How, after all, are we seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6) except by faith? This union with Christ is real and it generates real changed lives. Lives that are full of joyful good works: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Col 2:6-7).
Practical: Note well that the whole scheme of redemption (until it’s complete) is rooted in faith. Everyday, indeed, ever hour we simply trust God that we are who he says we are. Greeks seek wisdom (intellectual surety) and Jews seek a sign (some experiential basis), but we preach Christ and him crucified (foolishness and a stumbling block to humanism, but power and salvation to faith). Here it is: A sinner hears the gospel and casts himself upon Christ. God comes to that sinner and says, “In my eyes, you are perfect and righteous, completely forgiven of all your sins. Your old man is DEAD; you’re now alive in my Son.” God speaks these wonderful things to us by the Word, and he speaks them to us by Sacrament: “See, child, your sins are washed away! Come eat of the flesh and drink of the blood of them Lamb, for without them, there’s no life in you. Taste and see that I am good, and that I’m your true Father; you’re my true Son.” This sinner looks at himself and sees a mess of sin. He sees nothing like a perfect son of God. Far from what God’s said about him, he sees his own sinful desires alive, not dead! Thus, the sinner needs *continually* to look to Christ (and all the promises of God in him) to understand that he really is a saint… a sinful saint. The Bible teaches simul justus et peccator with a vengeance (with Paul, call it justification). This is the case until our redemption is complete. At that point, we’ll actually be righteous, walking by sight. Until then, we walk by faith not by sight.
This must be preached. Saints need to know that the righteousness in which they stand before a holy God is not in themselves, but in their Savior, Jesus Christ. They need to look away from themselves, trust completely in Christ, and serve him in gratitude. If our good works are done to finalize or complete our righteous standing before God, it’s game over, baby. If, however, our good works are done in loving gratitude for salvation full and free, it’s game on. Trust Christ completely and, in gratitude, serve him faithfully. Trust and obey… I think I remember singing that once or twice.