During the Civil War a man by the name of George Wyatt was drawn by lot to go to the front. He had a wife and six children. A young man named Richard Pratt offered to go in his stead. He was accepted and joined the ranks, bearing the name and number of George Wyatt. Before long Pratt was killed in action. The authorities later sought again to draft George Wyatt into service. He protested, entering the plea that he had died in the person of Pratt. He insisted that the authorities consult their own records as to the fact of his having died in identification with Pratt, his substitute. Wyatt was thereby exempted as beyond the claims of law and further service. He had died in the person of his representative. There we have the truth of identification in a nutshell. God's way of deliverance is through death--through identification with our Substitute in His death and resurrection.
After setting forth the truth of our justification through faith in Christ's death for us (Romans 5), the apostle takes us forward at once into Romans 6, in which he sets forth the believer's identification with death. In chapter 5 it is Christ's death for us; in chapter 6 it is our death with Christ. Christ's death for us in chapter 5 is foundational and essential, but we should move on immediately into the next chapter. It is in chapter 6 we learn that our justification is no mere formal or legal transaction (although it is essentially a legal matter), but that it is also in essential union with Christ. When God declares the ungodly sinner just, He makes no mere legal and lifeless imputation of righteousness apart from a real and deep life-union of the believer with Christ. God has indeed declared righteous "the ungodly," but not apart from Christ, not outside of Christ. We are justified only in Christ; that is, having come into vital life-union with Christ through faith in His atoning death. Those whom God declares righteous are "created in Christ Jesus." We are actually new creatures "in Christ."
After Paul's declaration in Romans 5:20 that "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound," the question naturally arises in Romans 6:1, "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" The emphatic "God forbid" is based upon our identification with Christ in His death. Having been joined to Christ, it follows that we have been "baptized into his death." Since we have been united to Christ crucified (in our justification-Rom. 5), our position must be one of death "in Him." Paul says, "One died for all, then were all dead."
The death of Christ for all inevitably involved the death of all. We therefore died in Christ to sin. Shall we continue in sin? Perish the thought! "In sin" and "in Christ"? What an ethical contradiction! Christ dying for me makes inevitable my death with Him. The very character of Christ's work on Calvary renders inseparable this double aspect of the once-for-all atonement. "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." The cause of Christ suffers greatly today through what has rightly been termed a "dissected Cross, a decapitated gospel.