Lexically this is the easiest phrase and the general meaning is clear: participation with Christ. According to this phrase, believers participate with Christ in his death, burial, resurrection, ascension, glorification, and session in heaven. Yet, on each of these points I have unresolved issues:
- What does it mean to die with Christ? Is this simply a way of saying that through Christ’s death we have died to sin? Or does it relate to a new identity? In other words, what exactly dies with Christ and what is still the same? Is this phrase connected to present suffering and how do we recognize suffering?
- What does it mean to be buried with Christ? Is this simply a reference to death? How does it relate to baptism? Is this phrase connected to present suffering and how do we recognize suffering? What would it mean to participate in burial?
- What does mean to be alive with Christ (live with Christ)? Is this simply a way of saying that through Christ’s resurrection we have been given newness of life? Or does it convey a sharing in the present life of Christ? If so, how?
- What does it mean to share with Christ a destiny? Is this simply a way of talking about heaven or life everlasting? Is it describing a future reality of being like Christ in glory or participating with Christ in glory?
At this point, I have more questions than answers concerning Paul’s use of συν Χριστω because I believe the simple answers do not give sufficient weight to the phrases importance. It is not enough to say, conforming to Christ’s death leads to sharing in Christ’s resurrection (per Mike Gorman) because while it sounds great it has not explained anything. We must examine what it means to conform and share, thus, the deeper questions must be addressed and I hope to do that in the coming weeks.