In recent years a number of scholars have increasingly pointed out the relationship between participating in Christ’s death and changing sinners’ status before God. Two passages that are especially relevant to this conversation are Galatians 2:15-21 and Romans 6-7. What’s unique about both of these passages is their use of the term, “systauroo” or “co-crucify.” Gorman explains, “the restoration to right covenant relations is therefore an experience of death and resurrection, or resurrection via death.” (Inhabiting, 63) According to Gorman we are co-crucified and co-resurrected with Christ. In Romans 6, one gets “into Christ” by baptism. Justification requires death to the law, there is co-crucifixion, and resurrection to new life. All of this is participatory. And it results in our justification.
Cranfield makes a similar point. In writing of Romans 6:1-14, He argues that there are four different senses in which we may speak of dying with Christ and being raised with him. These four senses are: juridicial, baptismal, moral, eschatological. Regarding the first point Cranfield says that “God willed to see them as having died in Christ’s death and having been raised in his resurrection.” Constantine Campbell explains,
By speaking of dying and rising with Christ, Paul appears to be delving into the mechanics of how the gift of God in Jesus Christ has overturned the juridical implications of sin and death. The logic appears as follows. The consequence of sin is death, judgement, and condemnation. By dying a representative death for sinful humanity, Christ fulfilled the legal requirement for sin. Once this legal requirement had been satisfied by death, the new life of Chris is no longer bound by sin or the juridical consequences it entail. The way in which the benefits of Christ’s representative death are apprehended is by identification with him in his death. This is where participation and representation come together: Believers spiritually partake in the death and resurrection of Christ, who has represented them in these acts…. The reason that believes have been set free from the condemnation of the law and death is that the righteous requirements of the law have been met through their dying and rising with Christ. (Campbell, 337)
Tannehill, however, makes a stronger point. He says that the death and resurrection of Christ are events in which the believer herself participates. New life “is based upon personal participation in these saving events.” (Tannehill, 1) The person is actually included in Christ. This is no mere legal representation. Believers somehow actually die with Christ and are raised with Christ.
That sounds right to me…
They cannot go to the tomb in the darkness, partly because they shrink from handling a dad body in pitch blackness, and partly because it would be difficult to carry out the anointing without light. But as soon as the sun rises off they go. And then they remember the stone. Who will roll it away? They have no idea, but they press on regardless. Something will turn up. When they get there the stone has already been rolled away, but as they enter the tomb the see a terrifying sight: a figure in white seated. He tries to calm their fears, pointing to the place where the body of Jesus had lain. There is nothing there. “He’s not here! He’s risen!” They flee, terror-struck; and with that word Mark ends his Gospel.
It is, surely, the most remarkable ending in the history of literature: ephobounto gar, “for they were afraid”. Enigmatic though it is, it strikes a keynote. In the resurrection we are in the presence of the uncanny; of the irreducibly holy; of that for which we can offer no explanation.
-Donald Macleod (Christ Crucified, 68)
Remember, this was the outcome of the Easter story, the history of Jesus Christ, just as death as the wages of sin was its beginning. With Christ’s resurrection from the dead God’s free gift, eternal life, entered the world. He, the dear son, he, the faithful and obedient servant, he who was willing to make our sin his own and to die our death in replacement of us, he Jesus Christ, was raised from the dead and recalled from the tomb by the Father. He was robed in eternal life. But now remember also, dear brothers and sisters, that God so acted in Jesus Christ in order that we, truly all of us, without exception, may share in this free gift of life eternal. His story now becomes ours, just as before ours became his. This was accomplished when the Easter story reached its climax. This was the great “but” and “onward” wherby our sin and with it our death was relegated to the past. This was and this is the light mentioned already in the story of creation. “God said, let there be light! and there was light.” There was light for us all in the story of Easter, in the event of Jesus Christ. There all of us, mankind itself, were made free for eternal life. The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! In him and with him, we too are risen indeed.
-Karl Barth (from the Easter sermon “Death – But Life!”)
Today Christians all over the world celebrate an event that shook the entire course of humanity. This event is Resurrection or Easter Sunday. Because Christ has risen from the grave everything has changed. But first and foremost, Christ’s atonement for our sin has been made effective. This Easter Sunday take in and meditate on what T.F. Torrance has to say about resurrection and atonement.
Since Jesus Christ is himself the resurrection and the Life, he is himself as lot reconciliation and salvation of men. The risen Jesus Christ is the living Atonement, atonement in its glorious achievement not only in overcoming the separation of sin, guilt, and death, but in consummating union and communion with God in such a way that the divine life overflows freely through him into mankind. Of course, if Christ had not risen from the dead, that would have indicated that the atonement hand not been achieved, that he had not actually been able to sand in for us and take our place; and then his sacrifice on the Cross could have been seen only as a terrible act of final injustice…However, now that he has risen from the dead, the atonement is shown to have been carried through to its final end. (Space Time and Resurrection, 55)
In other words, while the crucifixion was God the Son’s “it is finished” – the resurrection is God the Father’s declaration – “It is finished!” Atonement has been accomplished and completed through the resurrection of our buried king. It is God’s “Yes, I accept” to Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf! Because it is God the Father’s “yes” we can rejoice in the fact that our sins are fully covered, that sin and Satan are defeated, and most importantly that we can forever experience union with