Dead and Buried
Did you know that Christ’s burial is an essential part of the gospel?
Listen to how it belongs to Paul’s summation of his message in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4,
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day.
Jesus died for sins, but don’t forget the burial. It is inseparable from his death, inseparable from his resurrection. These are the facts by which we know that our salvation is true and our sins forgiven.
Jesus’s burial means that there is no humbling that He did not endure, no part of sin’s price that He did not pay. Jesus did it all on our behalf, even letting his blessed body be nailed to the cross, letting his blessed body be laid in the tomb.
And when Christ died, it was more than just his own life that ended, it was our life that ended. This is the Bible’s profound teaching about being united to Christ by faith. By faith we are joined with Jesus on the cross, so that there our sin was crucified. When we believe in Christ, it’s as if we were there, buried in the grave with Christ, punished for sin.
And so our old self, our old nature—that whole wicked way of thinking and speaking and doing—our old self is finished. As far as God is concerned, our sin has been put into the ground and utterly finished. As Paul says in Romans 6:4,
We were buried with Him through baptism into death.
This is the good news about how God looks at us: united to Christ, and partakers in all the benefits of his atoning work. When the Father looks at his Son, God sees us! When the Father looks at us, He sees Christ! Scripture says that you are alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:11). That is our present status, our new identity.
In this gospel let’s not overlook the calling that remains. For instance, the Holy Spirit says to believers, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body” (Rom 6:12). And again He says, “Do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness” (Rom 6:13). If all your sin was crucified with Christ, then leave it dead. And if it was buried with Christ, then leave it buried. Don’t try to revive your sin and pull it out of the grave for another tour of duty.
Crucifying and burying our old nature means that we deliberately break with any of the wickedness that remains in our life. Think about the idea of burying. When you bury a loved one at the cemetery, and you see all the dirt being thrown in over the coffin, you don’t even think about the possibility of digging them up again one day. They are dead and buried until the day of Christ’s return. Until then, they need to stay in the ground.
To bury our sins with Christ means that we are now finished with them. We put them away, and never dig them up again. Sin is meant to stay dead. We don’t want to exhume our old nature, with all its smell and filth and rottenness, but we want to be done with sin forever.
Yet this is just what we do sometimes: we dig up past sins. It is like we go to the cemetery with our shovel and start digging. Maybe we hold onto a memory of a past sin because we still get some enjoyment out of it. We replay it in our minds, revisit it in our thoughts. But this is dangerous. It’s going to be much harder to physically resist a sin that you’ve been mentally rehearsing.
Or maybe we don’t even put our sin completely away. We leave it where it can be easily uncovered when we’re bored or angry. Maybe we keep up connections with the people that helped to lead us into sin. Or we go back to the places where Satan prowls, like where there is a lot of drinking. Or maybe we keep alive our habit of sin by giving it attention now and again. Then we haven’t buried our sin with Christ, but we’ve taken the rotten corpse and put it on the shelf in our living room or our bedroom.
This teaches the importance of really putting our sin to death. In Matthew 5, Jesus speaks about taking radical steps against our sin: gouging out the eye, cutting off the hand. And the struggle against sin reveals our great need to depend fully on the strength of Christ. We simply cannot fight against temptation without having a living relationship with the Lord Jesus. For only in his power, only with his wisdom, and only when we are motivated by his grace will we be able to endure!
Trust in Christ, delighting again in how through his death our old nature is crucified, put to death, and buried with him.
If we have repented from sin, then we must not go back. Bury sin with Christ, keep it buried, and go on to better things. For that’s the other side of it. Being a child of God is more than just radically shunning evil, it is also enthusiastically pursing good. With Christ we have been buried, and now raised up, says Romans 6:4,
to walk in newness of life.
That is the glorious new life we get to lead. We don’t need to stumble in the darkness, but we get to walk in the light of life.
We don’t need to loiter around cemeteries, but we get to enjoy Christ’s daily presence through his Spirit, and live thankfully in our blessed hope.