A wise old Jew once prophesied to the king that his favourite mistress would soon die. Sure enough, the woman died a short time later. The king was certain that the old man’s prophesy had brought about the woman’s death and he wanted revenge. He called in the Jew and said he would like to know something. “When will you die?” the king asked the old Jew. The wise old Jew realized that the king was planning to kill him, whatever answer he gave, so he replied, “I only know that whenever I die, the king will die three days later.”
It is sometimes said that nothing in this life is certain, except for death and taxes. We all know that death will come our way, sooner or later. There is no need for us to ignore the fact or side-step the issue. As believers in the Messiah, we also need to acknowledge the fact that Y’shua the Messiah has come into this world to die and has given a complete new meaning to death, and therefore also to life. The death of Y’shua the Messiah is a most central aspect of what we believe. It is through his death that our sins were forgiven and paid for. Because He died once and for all as an atonement for our sins, there is no more need for the slaughtering and offering of animal sacrifices. Because He passed through death and arose from the dead, we may look forward to being made alive at his coming, even if we were to die before He comes. It is believing in the death and resurrection of Y’shua the Messiah that distinguishes us and sets us apart from all the major religions in this world. We need to know, therefore, what exactly it is that was brought about by his death. More specifically, going by the principle of 2 Cor 5:14 (“if One died for all, then all died”), we need to know what it means when we say: “We have died with the Messiah”.
1. Having died with the Messiah means having died to sin.
Rom 6:1-2. “What then shall we say? Shall we continue in sin, to let favour increase? Let it not be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”
This means that sin, as it is being defined throughout Scriptures, should not be tolerated in our lives any longer. Knowing how costly a price the Messiah had paid to free us from the stronghold of sin and to restore our relationship with the Father, it is now our desire to do only what is pleasing to Him. For us, to turn right back after we had been set free from sin, and start sinning again (or: start doing again what is contrary to the Torah), would be like a dog returning to his own vomit (2 Pet 2:22).
1 Pet 2:23-25
2. Having died with the Messiah means having died to the law.
Rom 8:2. “For the Torah of the Spirit of the life in Messiah Y’shua has set me free from the law of sin and of death.”
This means that our focus and our trust should not be on (the fleshly elements of) the law, in the hope that keeping the letter of the law will ensure our righteousness before Yahweh. Our focus, instead, should be on Messiah and the righteousness that He had bestowed upon us and our desire should be to obey Him and to follow Him. Previously, certain believers were “married” to the law, but could not remain “faithful” to the law; now that they are “married” to the Giver of the law they will find a new, inner motivation to please Him and keep his commandments.
3. Having died with the Messiah means having died to the first principles or elementary matters of this world.
Col 2:20-23. “If then, you died with Messiah from the elementary matters of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations: Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle – which are all to perish with use – according to the commands and teachings of men? These indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed worship, humiliation and harsh treatment of the body – of no value at all, only for the satisfaction of the flesh.”
This means that those who believe in Messiah should no longer keep observances and practices that are taught by human beings (and man-made institutions) and not by Yahweh. These observances are usually considered to be very important because they are “according to the tradition of men”, but in reality they are “weak and poor elementary matters”. Those who keep these observances appear to do so in wisdom and humility, but they do not realize that they are engaged in worthless, self-imposed worship, only satisfying the flesh and not honouring the Father. Notice that these “elementary matters” are the commands and teachings of men and should not be mistaken for the teachings and commandments of Yahweh (Torah).
4. Having died with the Messiah means having died to the affairs and comforts of this world.
2 Tim 2:3-4; 10-12. “Suffer hardship with us as a good soldier of Y’shua Messiah. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in the affairs of this life, in order to please only him who enlisted him as a soldier … So I endure through it all for the sake of the chosen, so that they toot obtain deliverance which is in Messiah Y’shua with everlasting esteem. Trustworthy is the word: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also shall deny us.”
This means that we should remember that a slave is not greater than his master. If the Messiah, our Master, was hated, insulted, persecuted and killed, the same is expected to happen to us. Being a follower or a disciple of the Messiah always entails hardship and this we should accept with gladness and honour. We may always be comforted knowing that what we endure now is nothing compared to the wonderful reward that we shall receive if we remain faithful to our Master and to the message He entrusted to us.
2 Tim 3:12
1 Pet 2:21