Calvary Road Baptist Church


Acts 11.26


In Acts 11.26, we read, “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” Why were they called Christians first in Antioch? Have you ever wondered why Christians are called Christians?

“The name was evidently given to the followers of Christ by the Gentiles to distinguish them from the Jews since they were Greeks, not Grecian Jews. The Jews would not call them Christians because of their own use of Christos the Messiah. The Jews termed them Galileans or Nazarenes. The followers of Christ called themselves disciples (learners), believers, brethren, saints, those of the Way. The three uses of Christian in the N. T. are from the heathen standpoint (here), Ac 26:28 (a term of contempt in the mouth of Agrippa), and 1Pe 4:16 (persecution from the Roman government). It is a clear distinction from both Jews and Gentiles and it is not strange that it came into use first here in Antioch when the large Greek church gave occasion for it.”[2] Thus, we know that the Jews referred to our kind using their terminology, our kind referred to our kind using our terminology, and the Gentiles in the Gentile city of Antioch referred to our kind as Christians. However, that still does not answer the question of why call us anything at all, unless we were and are different enough from others of our own ethnic background that the distinction must be made. Why call both a Jewish believer in Jesus Christ, as well as a Gentile believer in Jesus Christ, Christians, unless they are different enough from Jewish and Gentile people, and similar enough as believers in Jesus Christ, to merit being called Christians as an accurate way to identify them?

We have dealt with this matter of union with Jesus Christ for the last two weeks on Sunday mornings. Two weeks ago I pointed out that the Bible describes the believer’s relationship with Jesus Christ as a union, and last week I related six different analogies found in the New Testament that are used to explain and improve our understanding of the believer’s union with Jesus Christ using illustrations from everyday life. An important point made last week and stressed again today is the reality of the believer’s union with Jesus Christ being experienced. Thus, not only is it a fact that the believer being in Christ makes him a new creature, Second Corinthians 5.17, but believers actually experience new creature in Christ experiences. Those new creature in Christ experiences make us different enough from other people, and different enough from the people we used to be identified with, that now we are properly designated Christians. Consider the following verses listing the results to the believer of his union and identification with the Savior. In each verse, I have in bold letters where the Greek word sun is found.


Romans 6.8: “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.”

Romans 8.32: “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

Second Corinthians 4.14: “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.

Second Corinthians 13.4: “For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.

Philippians 1.23: “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.”

Colossians 2.13: “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.”

Colossians 2.20: “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?”

Colossians 3.3-4:     3    For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

4      When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

First Thessalonians 4.14: For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

First Thessalonians 4.17: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

First Thessalonians 5.10: Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.”


It is obvious from these verses that the Greek preposition en, which is typically translated in, does not exhaust the meaning of this concept of being in union with Jesus Christ. Union also speaks to our relationship experiences concerning Jesus Christ as being those that we are in certain respects with our Lord Jesus Christ, and we are so regarded by God.

I set before you this morning five results of the believer’s union with Jesus Christ that dramatically affect our life experiences:




Romans 6.6-7, where we are informed that by virtue of this union, the Christian has been crucified and has died with Christ:


6      Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

7      For he that is dead is freed from sin.


Paul here refers to the moment of identification with Christ when the believer comes to Christ and is born again by the Spirit. Why this declaration by the Apostle Paul? Because reality differs for the Christian from perception. We are crucified with Christ. We are in a sense dead in Christ and freed from sin, though our flesh lies to us and we do not always feel like this is the case. Point in fact, we would not know this to be true unless we were told this is true, and we are told this is true so that we can begin to experience this aspect of our union with Christ.

We see it once again declared in Galatians 2.20, where Paul writes, “I am crucified with Christ.” This translates the perfect passive verb, meaning Paul did not do this. This was done to Paul, and the effect of what was done remains. “Nevertheless,” Paul continues, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Christ was crucified 2000 years ago on the cross, and believers are regarded by God as having been crucified with Him. The bold imagery of crucifixion emphasizes that the old order of existence, with its anti-God bias and sinful passions, has been rendered powerless. In Galatians 5.24, Paul writes, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” In Galatians 6.14, he writes, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Union with Christ is not a mere abstraction, but has a profound effect on the way you live and how you relate to others and the world around you. How so? You really are a new creation if you are a believer in Jesus Christ.




Romans 6.4 begins, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death.” Scripture clearly shows that salvation does not come by works of righteousness, but through the means of faith in Christ. Baptism rightly occurs only after conversion, and is not a saving ordinance. The significance of the picture of burial in believer baptism is personal death to sin’s domination and a complete breach with the old way of life at the time of conversion. Notice what Paul writes in Colossians 2.12 (“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”), where descending into the waters of baptism graphically depicts the burial aspect of incorporation into Christ.

Are you beginning to grasp the profound significance of the believer’s identification with Jesus Christ? There is no way a believer can be identified with Jesus Christ in this manner without the union that brings it about dramatically affecting every aspect of his life experience. Why the burial? The old man is buried. Sin is buried. Christ, our Sin Bearer, was buried. If you really are dead to sin, should you not be buried? Thus, the believer’s burial in baptism is a picture of his burial with Christ.




Ephesians 2.4-5, where the Apostle reminds his readers of one of the consequences of their conversion experience:


4      But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

5      Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)


To quicken means to make alive. As God raised Christ from the dead, we were also made alive from our death in sin. God quickened us with Christ, made both us and Christ alive from the dead.

The same principle is explained in a slightly different way in Colossians 2.13, where we read, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” In both Ephesians 2.5 and Colossians 2.13, the Greek verb is compounded with the preposition sun to indicate that new life occurs in union with Christ. Romans 8.10 makes a complimentary point: “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”

Second Timothy 2.11: “It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him.” Eternal life is the great outcome of union with Jesus Christ. This is not a half way game with Christ. If you begin with Him, you will end with Him. If you are dead to sins with Him, believer, you will certainly also live with Him.

In all these texts, Paul asserts that in association with Christ at conversion believers move from a condition of spiritual death to a state of unending, spiritual life. That change shows, by the way, in the way Christians live.




Colossians 2.12: “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” The phrase “risen with him” translates a word that literally means to be co-resurrected. Thus, the reality of the believer’s union with Jesus Christ in His resurrection from the dead is driven home.

Colossians 3.1: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” Ephesians 2.6: “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” How more strongly can it be asserted that the believer is raised with Christ?

Romans 6.4: “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” When the believer is joined to Christ through faith, he begins to experience union with the savior that includes both the resurrection of Christ from the dead and the believer’s resurrection from deadness in sins. When that same believer comes up out of the waters of believer baptism, he shows forth by that picture what is spiritually true at the moment of conversion, the believer is raised with Christ.

Of what practical benefit is this truth? This reality, and the believer’s knowledge and awareness of this reality, affects the way you live. In union with Christ, you are different than you were before.




Colossians 3.4: “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” You know, of course, that Jesus is coming again. Such is the believer’s union with Christ that when He comes again in power and in great glory, we shall appear with Him in glory. This is what Paul referred to in Colossians 1.27, when he wrote the phrase, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Glorification includes the future resurrection of the Christian’s physical body, the enjoyment of everlasting life in heaven, and participation in Christ’s heavenly rule, Romans 8.17: “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” However, it will not just be that we will be glorified with Him, for we shall also rule with Him, Second Timothy 2.12: “we shall also reign with him.”


So many different blessings derive from the believer’s union with Christ. These blessings include freedom in Christ from the yoke of the law (Galatians 2.4), comfort and encouragement in Christ (Philippians 2.1), peace or inner tranquility in Christ (John 14.27; Philippians 4.7), strengthening in Christ (Second Corinthians 12.9; Philippians 4.13), being wise in Christ (First Corinthians 4.10), rejoicing in Christ (Philippians 4.4, 10), being spiritually enriched in Christ (First Corinthians 1.5), spiritual victory in Christ (Second Corinthians 2.14), acquiring hope in Christ (First Corinthians 15.19; Ephesians 1.12), and being safe in Christ (Romans 16.20). All of God’s goodness is mediated to believers in union with Christ. As Paul wrote, the Father “blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ,” Ephesians 1.3. The Christian truly does possesses an ideal completeness in Christ. Since the fullness of the Godhead indwells Christ, and since believers are in the exalted Lord, Paul could affirm, “And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power,” Colossians 2.10.

If these things were true because of our union with Christ, if we are crucified with Christ, dead with Christ, buried with Christ, made alive with Christ, raised with Christ, and we will be glorified with Christ, why is there so much skepticism about our faith? Why do so many of our own children scorn our faith by refusing to seriously consider the claims of Christ?

I am saddened to say that we are living in the last days of great apostasy and spiritual lethargy when very few Christians are very spiritual. Add to that the clever satanic ploy of prompting so many to claim to be Christians who have never embraced the savior. These things, along with the sinner’s natural enmity toward God, pretty much explain the sad state of affairs.

This said, genuinely born again Christians really are joined to Christ, really do benefit from the forgiveness of sins, really have been delivered from the wrath of God, and really are new creatures in and with Christ. Therefore, despite their reasonings and justifications for rejecting the gospel, the lost have a terrible destiny awaiting them.

When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, He will take vengeance in flaming fire on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The lost shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.

[1] This series of sermons about the believer’s union with Christ borrow heavily from Bruce Demarest, The Cross And Salvation, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, hardcover edition 2006), pages 313ff.

[2] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol II, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1930), pages 160-161.

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