One of my all time favorite hymns is the old African-American spiritual, “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” Every time I sing it, I want to cry out loud, “You bet I was there! I was nailed to the tree with Him as He hung under the wrath of God for me.” That is, of course, the great truth of our union with Christ. What the Savior did, He did for His people. Whatever He endured, He endured in our place and for our good. This is the heart of the gospel itself. When Jesus died, our old sin nature was crucified with Him. When He was buried, our old sin nature was put away from the presence of God in the tomb. And, when Jesus stepped out of the tomb, we stepped out with Him unto newness of life.
From the great exchange to the great renewal, everything about the Christian life is summed up in our union with Christ in His death and resurrection. The apostle Peter captured this truth so marvelously when he wrote, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). Sin is what keeps us from living a life that is pleasing to God. Jesus came to deal with our sin on the cross. He died to the power of it. He died for the guilt of it. He took the shame of it upon Himself. When Jesus died, He was treated as the worst sinner who had ever walked the face of the earth—even though He knew no sin in His personal experience. God the Father reckoned Christ a sinner in our place, so that He might do what we could never do for ourselves. That is the great exchange of the gospel.
As glorious a truth as that is in itself, there is another beautiful dimension to the gospel. Peter tells us that He took our sin in His own body on the tree so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. When Jesus rose from the dead, He raised us up with Him so that we might bear fruit to God. We have been brought into a new world of grace, one in which we live and move as part of God’s new creation in Christ. We were redeemed to live out lives of holiness unto God. Our union with Jesus Christ crucified and raised is, in every way, the secret of our sanctification. May God give us grace to remember this precious truth as we seek to live out our new lives in union with Him!
Written by Nicholas Batzig