This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. (NKJV)
Paul has a list of faithful sayings: 1 Tim 1:15 regarding salvation, 3:1 regarding church officers, 4:9 regarding godliness, 2 Tim 2:11 to be discussed, Titus 3:8 regarding salvation.
Died with Him
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal 2:20, 3:27 RSV)
To understand how we can say that we’ve died with Jesus, we need to understand what it means to be baptized into Christ or to put on Christ. Both are biblical terms. The word baptize however, probably has sparked some of the biggest controversies among Christian denominations as any other word. At the root of the word there is a physical and a metaphorical meaning. Physically, it simply means to makes something completely wet with the intent of either making it clean or dying it to completely change its color or appearance. The metaphorical meaning isn’t very different. It means to overwhelm though it could also be physical. When I apply these meanings to the being baptized into Jesus (Rom 6:3-11) I can see all of them coming into play.
I am first of all immersed into Jesus. I’m not sprinkled with Jesus but completely covered. It is easier to understand what it means to be immersed in Jesus if you think of what it looks like for someone to be only sprinkled with Jesus. They get just enough of Jesus to think they are saved and that’s all. They are not willing to deny themselves and follow Jesus (Matt 16:24-25). They want the association but not the commitment. On the other hand, to be baptized into Jesus means making a complete commitment that my life is His. We can’t die with Jesus unless we first die to our selves. We can’t live our own life and His at the same time.
This doesn’t happen on a physical level but a spiritual level. It is a matter of the will to make the decision and to follow through with it. A side note to this is that we must also recognize that while we make the decision, we wouldn’t be able to do that without God enabling us to do it. All of God is involved in saving us (Titus 3:4-6). That is why it is spiritual and not physical.
Put on Jesus
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. (Rom 13:14 NASB)
When we are baptized into Jesus or put on Jesus, we are made spiritually clean. Prior to this verse, Paul tells us to stop doing a bunch of things. We are also told to put off everything that corrupted our ways before putting on the new life that is now created to be like God in holiness (Eph 4:20-24). The list of things to put off is even longer in Col 3:5-10 and the emphasis is stronger calling us to put to death all the ungodly activities as we put on the new self.
That new self is Jesus. While baptism usually demonstrates an outward cleansing, the truth of being baptized into Jesus must include a changed heart, an inward cleaning. Jesus said that all the evils that we must put off come out of the heart (Matt 15:19). The only way to clean our hearts is to have Jesus there. We must have Jesus in our hearts, which happens when we receive Jesus by faith (Eph 3:17, Rev 3:20). Jesus is in our hearts if we are really saved. Contrary to what some people say (they say that He can’t be in more than one place because He took on a physical body) Jesus can be in my heart and yours at the same time. Not only so, but He is seated at the right hand of the Father at the same time and makes intercession for us. What does that do for your concept of the spiritual realm? It should blow it wide open with no restrictions. It is the only way to explain how we can put on Jesus.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:17 ESV)
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:9 ESV)
Dying with Christ or being in Christ is a complete change. I can’t speak to people who became Christians when they were very young. They probably don’t really remember much about their sinful life as a toddler up until they became a Christian. However, I can speak to people who became Christians when they were older. If you can’t remember a change, then your memory is really bad or you didn’t really change and that means you had better take a good, hard look at whether or not you are really a Christian. I’m not trying to say that we become perfect, that is a long process of spiritual growth, but I’m saying that when we are changed we stop making a practice of sinful behaviors. Our desire is no longer to be involved in the despicable things that are clearly condemned in the Bible and we desire to please God by living holy lives. If the desire isn’t there, there hasn’t been a change, there hasn’t been repentance, and that means there hasn’t been any admission of having done wrong.
The rich young ruler in Matt 19:16-22 is a good picture of someone who thinks he is a Christian but isn’t. This is the person who grew up in the church doing all the right stuff. If you were to ask him if he had kept all the commandments, he would say that he had just as the rich young ruler did. He might even be able to tell you the exact date he “received” Christ or was baptized. But Christ has never been first in his life. When confronted with the things that are more important, his idols, he is unwilling to give them up and follow Jesus. He wants to have eternal life, but deep down, he is trusting in his own goodness to save himself.
As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. (Mark 9:13 NIV)
Being baptized into Jesus is to be overwhelmed by Him. Most of the time that people are described as overwhelmed, it isn’t a description of anything good happening. As I read in the Bible, people are overwhelmed with horror (Ps 55:5), physical circumstances such as waves (Ps 78:53), or even anger (Prov 27:4). While being overwhelmed in baptism most logically relates to physically being submerged by a flow of water, the definition of overpowering someone emotionally and even physically by Jesus also applies metaphorically.
If we stop to think about what Jesus went through on the cross to save us, we should be overwhelmed with emotion. When we think about the fact there was nothing we could do to save ourselves and that we were enemies of God, yet Jesus saved us, we should be overwhelmed. When we think of the blessings He has bestowed on us in the heavenly realms, we should be overwhelmed. Considering that we have been adopted as sons of God through Jesus, we should be overwhelmed. Shouldn’t our emotional overwhelming result in an undying love of our Lord and Savior?
Does Jesus overwhelm us metaphorically? Are we like a 95-pound wrestler who tries to fight a 210-pound heavy weight when it comes to our will vs. Jesus’ will? We really should give up and let Jesus overwhelm us if we are really baptized into Him. We should surrender completely to His will and start doing the things He wants.
Unfortunately, many of us still try to squirm and do our own thing instead. All the while we’re pinned to the mat, we are saying that He can hold us down but He can’t break our spirit. How sad to think of being overwhelmed by Jesus like that. We really should be thinking about being overwhelmed by Jesus in terms of the might and strength He provides us as we cooperate with Him. We can do all things through Jesus who gives us strength (Phil 4:13).
Live with Jesus
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5 NKJV)
To abide in a place means to dwell there. It isn’t a one-time visit to a beautiful location and then return home. When you abide in a place, you are home. When you abide in Jesus you are in a beautiful location with no thought or desire to return to your previous home. That previous home was spiritual death. Who would want to go back there? If we died with Christ, then the desires to go back to that old life should have died at the same time.
Jesus used the symbology of a grape vine and the branches to describe our relationship with Him. A changed life can’t occur when we try to live partly in Jesus and partly in our old way of living, the world. Neither can I imagine a grape branch that somehow only connects to the vine for a few minute a day to get sap. What kind of fruit would it produce? At best, it might have some tiny, bitter grapes. At worst, the blossoms would wilt and never even produce a grape.
So it is with a Christian who thinks that Jesus can be just a part of his life instead of the center of it. Unless our life is centered in Jesus, our fruit will be stunted. Our joy will be lacking, our love will be fickle, our peace will be disrupted, our patience will be short, our kindness will be crude, our faith will be lacking, our gentleness will be rough, and our self-control will be volatile. If we don’t see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Gal 5:22-23), then we need to see if we are really abiding in Jesus or if we are abiding in the world.
Many people only consider their life with Christ to start when they reach heaven. They tend to forget that how we live our lives with Jesus now will determine what our eternal life with Him will be like. Jesus taught with parables about this when He told of servants who were entrusted with money while their master was away. Those who used it wisely were granted authority over cities, one ten and another five. The one who didn’t even use his money lost it (Luke 19:12-27).
Endure and Reign
… to the one who overcomes … I will … (Rev 2:7, Rev 2:11, Rev 2:17, Rev 2:26, Rev 3:5, Rev 3:12, Rev 3:21)
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (Rev 21:7 KJV)
Paul says that we will reign with Jesus if we endure. Jesus makes similar promises to the people of the churches in Revelation if they persevere during this lifetime. If we take abiding with Jesus seriously, we know that we will face problems just as the churches in Revelation. If we overcome everything from apathy to persecutions we will reap the promises described by Jesus in eternity. God affirms that if we overcome, are victorious, or conquer by putting to death the old self and abiding in Christ, we will inherit all these promises, but the icing on the cake is that He will be our God and we will be His sons.
This isn’t to say that He isn’t our God now or that we aren’t already His sons because the Bible tells us that we are (Eph 1:3-14). What we will see when we persevere to the end of our lives will be the completion of the process.
This is a reoccurring theme in the Bible. Eternity will be much different than most people will expect. Some think only of strumming harps on clouds on one extreme and other think only of one long worship session as described in Revelation chapter four. The latter is more accurate, but that is only part of the picture. The whole concept of reigning with Christ must expand our thoughts of eternity. How, will this occur, who will we reign over? Ponder these questions in light of what we know in the Bible and we realize that heaven will not be boring as some are afraid, neither will it be only a single eternal worship session.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Ps 16:11 ESV )
Denial vs. Faithfulness
But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (Matt 10:33 KJV)
In Matt 10:28-33, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that we have to make a decision to follow Him. We must decide if we value our earthly existence more than our eternal existence with Him. He tells us that His omniscient Father, who even pays attention to sparrows, values us much more than the birds. Therefore, we shouldn’t fear what others can or will do to us if we acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Savior. However, even as much as He values us, if we let fear cause us to deny Him, He will deny us before the Father.
If we are faithful, then we will acknowledge Jesus and we won’t do it in secret. Certainly there are places in the world today where some attempt to keep their faith secret because it means a death sentences. However, even in these places, when their secret is found out they have to decide what is more important. If we truly know Jesus, then He will give us the courage to admit it. That is one way He is faithful.
However, there is another way that He remains faithful. Jesus is the Word, therefore every truth in the Bible is about Jesus. When Jesus says that He will deny someone who has denied Him, He won’t change His mind otherwise He would be proved a liar. Jesus can’t deny Himself so He can’t go back on anything He has said.
When Jesus says that He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), then He hasn’t changed that to include all other religions or so called paths to enlightenment. If He added any way that depend on the adherent to do something for salvation, then He would be denying Himself. It means that Jesus doesn’t need help of any other priest, prophet, or system to save anyone. If we need anything other than faith and obedience to Jesus for salvation, then it would prove Jesus as faithless and He would have denied Himself.
When Jesus says that He gives us eternal life and that no one can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28), then we can rest on that promise. Once we have crossed over from death to life (John 5:24), once we have put on Jesus, there is no way that we or anyone else can take us away from Jesus. If we could, then we would prove Jesus faithless.
Jesus also said that there would be many who will come and claim to be the Christ (Matt 24:5). They will even use the name Jesus but they come to deceive and lead people away from the real Jesus. They may want salvation but don’t want the real Jesus for many different reason. A false Jesus will always deny the real Jesus in one way or another. Jesus is faithful in that He has warned us about the false christs.
This makes it all the more imperative to acknowledge the one true Jesus of the Bible as Lord and Savior while we are alive. We won’t get a second chance after we die (Heb 9:27). There will not be any do-overs. Jesus pointed this out in many parables. Five virgins were doing all the right stuff, but didn’t know the bridegroom (Matt 25:1-12). They didn’t get a second chance.
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test? (2 Cor 13:5 NASB)