The Berean Expositor
Volume 23 - Page 97 of 207
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There is a real link between "united" and likeness", the contrasted thought being
found in Rom. 8: 3:--
"For that which was not in the power of the law because it was weak through the
flesh, God (did) having sent His own Son in the likeness of the flesh of sin, and on
account of sin condemned sin in the flesh."
The Lord had a nature like our sinful nature, but had not Himself a sinful nature. If
the apostle had not used the word "likeness", it would have appeared that Christ partook
of sinful flesh, which of course He did not. So the believer is united to the Lord in the
"likeness" of His death, for that death itself allows of no possible partner. He suffered
alone and suffered once for all. He died actually and literally, that we might be reckoned
to have died with Him. Moreover, as we shall see in the next verse, "the likeness of His
death" is most certainly a reference to the kind of death of an acclaimed victor, but the
death of a slave, the death of the accursed, death by crucifixion. All this is included in
the original statement of verse, "dead to sin".
It is of the utmost importance that we shall realize the place that union with Christ
occupies in this great doctrine of sanctification. Here, in the short compass of four
verses, we have such extraordinary expressions as: "baptized into His death"; "buried
with Him"; "united with Him"; "crucified with Him"; "Like as Christ"; and "the
likeness of His death". Union with Christ is the very essence of sanctification:--
"For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are ALL OF ONE . . . . . as
the children were partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the
same" (Heb. 2: 11-14).
He was made "in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2: 7).
The ultimate goal of sanctification is expressed in Rom. 8: 29:--
"For whom He did foreknow He also did predestinate to be conformed to the IMAGE
of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren."
The zenith is conformity to the IMAGE, the commencement is union with the
LIKENESS of His death and resurrection life.
We have dwelt upon the likeness of His death, but let us not stay there. Life, not
death, is the sphere of sanctification and, to us, that life must be resurrection life; so the
apostle does not reach his goal until he completes the argument. "If . . . . . we shall be
also in the likeness of His resurrection." Verses 4 and 5 follow the same line:--
"Buried into His death. That like as Christ was raised--so we should be."
"United together with the likeness of His death. We shall also in the likeness of His