Hope of Resurrection
- Main Text: Romans 6:1-14
- Accompanying text: Matthew 6:24
What this passage means to us
Christianity provides a hope that is unique. In its acceptance of people of all faiths and of none into the impact of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, it is exclusively inclusive…even if people follow other divergent religious ideas or reject Jesus out of hand, Jesus still died for them, and they remain included in God’s salvation plan. Not only are they participants in Christ’s death, but they also have the Hope of the Resurrection.
“The great challenge to human hope is not just the question of where history is going but where we are going. The great problem is how to have a human hope that can make sense of death, stand up to death, and help us face the fear of death and even triumph over it…Death is an intrusion, a result of sin and our human race’s turning away from God…Our sense even now that we were made to last, that we were made to love without parting, is a memory trace of our divine origins. We are trapped in a world of death, a world for which we were not designed…that is why Jesus’s death destroys the power of death…He has paid for our sins. We may physically die, but death for us becomes an entryway into eternal life with him…All death can now do to Christians is to make their lives infinitely better” .
In Romans 6 Paul outlines for us the spiritual symbolism of the sacrament of baptism as it relates to the believers’ participation in the events of the crucifixion and the resurrection. He had explained already that all are included in the guilt and consequence of sin, which, however, had been removed by the Son of God dying innocently and willingly for us. Thus, having been justified by his blood through faith, all people stand in grace with the hope of glory before them. Death no longer has its previous hold on us because of the resurrection, for “God raised him (Jesus) from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24).
“Romans 6:7-8 is highly christocentric”, and, when it comes to salvation and justification, it “grounds the whole process in participation in Christ…the whole tenor of the discussion is participatory, ‘If we die with Christ, we believe that we will also live in him’…it remains only to note that in keeping with this participatory process, Christians have their mental landscape altered dramatically as well. ‘Believing’ here refers to the process wherein new beliefs characterize the Christian condition — beliefs that are mapping the dramatic process that is taking place. Christians ought to understand that as people immersed in Christ they are no longer ruled by Sin and Death, but by God” .
This participation extends to the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus Christ “establishes and undergirds the Christian hope” in that “it gives both foundation and substance to the Christian hope of eternal life” .
Context and Story-line
The main context that Paul is addressing is that of the believer. How could they respond to challenging questions which opponents might ask them? Throughout the first chapters of Romans Paul provides a study in Apologetics, that is, the Christian response to criticism of their faith. Romans 6:1 illustrates this. Paul states an objection that perhaps came from Jewish adversaries: does the idea of grace not in fact encourage sin? If we’ve been justified, i.e. made right with God, should we not sin more so that God’s grace can be demonstrated again and again? But, Paul implies, to say that Christians may live in sin is a non-sequitur – it doesn’t follow because in baptism we were united with Jesus in his death and thereby became “dead to sin” (Romans 6:11). Paul’s answer relates to our union in Christ. It’s interesting to note Paul incorporates a two-fold approach – first to answer the question, and, second, to encourage the believer in his or her holy life. The Christian is so essentially and vitally joined to Christ that in effect he or she is dead with him to sin and its effectiveness. Not only that, but in this union with Christ the Christian is risen with him to a new state in which sin has no power and no place. In this way the believer has changed context from being dead in sin and a slave to it to one of being freed from sin through being united with the risen Christ.
This new context of union with the Risen Christ provides the hope of the context of the believer’s resurrection to come. Just as we live now in God’s loving presence so we will live eternally in that presence because of Christ’s Resurrection. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his (Romans 6:4-5).
This union with Christ in his death and resurrection, expressed and illustrated through the sacrament of baptism, has immediate implications for how a Christian should lead a holy life in Christ. “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:11-14).
Paul continued to stress such ideas in his letters and his preaching. An example is in Colossians 3:1-4, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory”.
- Colossians 3:1-17
- Galatians 3:23-28
Other GCI resources
Footnotes and references
- Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God: an Invitation to the Sceptical (London, UK: Hodder & Stroughton Ltd, 2016, paperback 2018). 159,165-166.
- Douglas A Campbell, The Deliverance of God: an Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul, (Cambridge, UK: Wm B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009). 825-826.
- Alister E McGrath, Christian Theology: an Introduction (Oxford, UK: second edition, Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 1997). 384.