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Romans 6:1b-11

United With Christ

As Paul continues his discussion of sin and grace, a theme begins to emerge. That theme is our unification with Christ through baptism. We can and should not continue sinning because we have been united with Christ through our baptism. At this point, it would have been unthinkable for any of Paul’s readers to have identified as Christian and yet remain unbaptized, except, that is, for those who were catechumens actively preparing for baptism and full inclusion in the body of Christ.

The richness of the theme of unification can be more fully grasped when we dig a little deeper into the meaning of the Greek word usually translated as united, symphytos. The meaning of symphytos goes beyond a simple understanding of unity. To be united with Christ is not just to share similar thoughts or to be an assistant to. Rather, to be united with Christ means to be bound together, entwined or enmeshed. We are bound or entwined with Christ through our baptism. We are bound with him in his death, and we will be bound with him in his resurrection.

There are a few directions you might want to explore as you seek to help your congregation understand the nature of what it means to be bound or entwined with Christ through their baptisms. There are at least three images that would be helpful: the marriage image, the plant image, and the wound image.

The Marriage:

In seeking to draw out what it means to be untied with Christ, you might turn to the marriage image. In marriage, a man and a wife are bound together to become one flesh. Each partner had their own way of life before they were united in marriage. As they are joined together in marriage, they begin to die to their old bachelor way of life. Partners who refuse to let go of the lifestyle they once lived will experience a rough road.

Even though the partners in a marriage relationship have died to their old way of life, they do not cease to be who they are as individuals. The knitting together of two lives bears fruit in both partners’ lives as each draws strength and sustenance from the other. The longer the marriage survives, the longer each partner is defined by their entanglement with their partner. While our union with Christ does not yield the same benefit for God as it does for us, we do become co-laborers with Jesus, participating in his Kingdom-building work.

The Plant:

Our unification with Christ through our baptism is like the grafting of two plants together. In the grafting process, a branch is cut from its species of origin and is united with a new plant. The branch draws its ability to live and bea