Now if we died along with Christ we believe that we shall live with him also, knowing that Christ being raised from death will never die again, death no longer having dominion over him. For in that he died, he died to sin once for all; but in that he lives, he lives to God. Likewise you also must consider yourselves to be dead as far as sin is concerned; but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
As Christians we live with great contradiction. Our sins are forgiven but we still suffer from them. The punishment we merit is rescinded but the Lord still disciplines those whom he loves. We have life in Christ now and forever but like St. Paul we die daily, and are killed all the day long. We profess the holy Christian faith. We speak the language of men and of angels in holy worship; and eat the bread of angels from the Table of Life. But when we leave this sanctuary, this place of safety where true joys are found, sin is crouching at the door, and the Roaring Lion is seeking to devour us.
What are we to think? Are we God's children or are we not? Are we new creations in Christ or are we not? Will we persevere in faith and make it to heaven when we die, or will we be condemned to outer darkness where there is no forgiveness of sins, but only weeping and gnashing of teeth?
St. Paul answers the question for us in today's Epistle. He dispels the confusion and the contradiction when he says, "you also must consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord." That, dear Christians, is how we are to think of ourselves: dead as far as sin is concerned, but alive to God, to all his glories, blessings and promises, all of which are found in and reside in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What does it mean to be dead to sin? We take Jesus as our example. He did not only die FOR sin on the cross; for our sins that is, in order to delete them and set us free. But he also died TO sin. When our Lord bowed his head and died sin lost all power over him. He was now beyond its ambit; beyond its influence; deaf to its siren song. He could no longer be tempted and will never die again. For the death he died on Calvary's Cross he died once: for all sin, and for all sinners; and is become the source of eternal salvation for us.
But the redemption we possess in Christ is not a sham or charade, and so St. Paul says "…let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh." This very thing we do when we enter the Pool of Siloam, and the Spirit stirs the waters to dissolve, and wash away, our every sin.
But the new life we have in Christ is not only a matter of what we are dead to, but also what we are alive to. We emerge from the holy waters dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ.
What does it mean to be alive to God? By definition of a son is one who is inclined towards his father, who comes close to his breast so that he might hear every word his father has to say. As Jesus was inclined towards the Father from eternity; as St. John reclined on the breast of Jesus at the first holy communion, even so as sons of God who cry out to him "Abba Father who art in heaven" let our ears, our wills, our intellects and all our powers be attuned, not to the voice of the culture about us, but to the Word and Will of our Father in heaven.
How is this done? Not on our own to be sure, but as St. Paul says "in Christ Jesus our Lord." Always pay attention to the prepositions when hearing Holy Scripture!
When St. Paul uses the term "in Christ" nearly 100 times! in his epistles he is not speaking in metaphors; but about our baptism "into Christ" by water and the Word. Then and there we are clothed "in him." We "put on Christ" as St. Paul says. We are arrayed in him and his righteousness like a beautiful garment, even as we sang in the sermon hymn a few moments ago, "Midst flaming worlds in these arrayed, with joy shall I lift up my head." As our Lord resided in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as St. Thomas's doubting hands were plunged into the Lord's open side, even so we are now located safely and soundly from all death and all sin, in Christ Jesus our Lord. And nothing is better than that!
Baptism, in turn, gives us entrance into this holy house which is his house, his temple, the very kingdom of heaven. To be in this house, communing with Jesus who is factually present is to be, literally, "in Christ" and "in the kingdom of heaven and of God."
"In him," says St. Paul, "we have obtained an eternal inheritance …" Eph. 1:11; "In him we are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." Eph. 2:22; "In him we gain the righteousness from God that comes by faith." Phil. 3:12
"In Christ" we are made one with the immortal, invisible and only wise God who lives in unapproachable light. "In Christ" we who are by nature sinful and unclean are made spotless, and are brought into communion with the mutual love that exists between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." All this happens at the font, and at the high and holy altar of God where we are not only "in Christ" but find that he, too, is "in us" by the host (victim) we eat, and cup we drink.
Jesus says in John 14:23, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." These words should not be heard as metaphor, O Saints of God, but be taken in their truest sense. You are now "in" Christ. He is your dwelling place for all generations. Amen.