J. N. Darby.
Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans, does not enter on the ground of the new creation, but treats of man on this earth as a responsible being, only in one word as an abstract doctrine shewing him as he will be, and that only personally: "Whom he justified, them he also glorified." Here alone (chap. 8) purpose comes in, but only as to the state of individuals. God's sovereignty is asserted in chapter 9, but only to give God title to let in the Gentiles, in contrast with a national election claimed by the Jews.
But the purposes of God, or the new creation which is in purpose, are not in view. Man is a responsible creature in this world, dealt with as such, though in the end glorified. This responsibility is met by the work of Christ, and the coincident fact of having life in Him. With this the great fact of present Christianity is recognised — the Holy Ghost down here. By this we know that we are in Christ, but as down here. It is the believer's state down here in virtue of the Holy Ghost coming here. He sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts; but all this is my state down here, not the new creation.
The Epistle meets the whole question of our personal relationship to God. First, Christ is a propitiation through faith in His blood, and being risen again, the ground of our justification is shewn to be perfect, and being justified by faith we have peace with God. God imputes no sin to the believer, Christ having been delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification. Then, from chapter 5:12, the apostle takes up our state. Adam, by his obedience, has brought all connected with him into the condition of sinners; Christ, by His obedience, all connected with Him into that of righteousness.
But we have this righteousness by having part in His death; the having part in it is the very profession of Christianity. Thus deliverance from the state and power of sin is by death, and our death is in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. But if we are alive in Christ, and Christ is in us, it is Christ who is risen and even is glorified, after having died. Such a Christ being our life, we are esteemed dead, for He who is our life, our true I, has died, and this is valid and effectual for faith. But being alive in Christ, that is not all; but we are alive in Him who was crucified, and we have died with Him, and this frees from the old man and from the law. Thus we are baptized to Christ's death, buried with Him by baptism unto death; but called upon, therefore, only to walk in newness of life, for we are here in this creation as to our place.
A living Christ is our life here; but we are not looked at as raised up with Him. It is still the same responsible man, but all sins put away, one who will be like Him in resurrection, who is not to serve sin; it will not have dominion over him; it is not to reign in his mortal body, for there he yet is; but being set free to yield himself to God as alive from the dead, and his members as instruments of righteousness unto God; freed from sin by Christ being our life, and sin in the flesh condemned in Christ, a sacrifice for sin, and we, He having died, reckoning ourselves dead.
The Epistle to the Colossians goes farther still. The believer, indeed, is not seen sitting in heavenly places in Christ. A hope is laid up for him in heaven, and he is to set his affection on things above, where Christ sits at God's right hand, not on things on the earth. But he is not only dead with Christ, but risen with Him; he is dead, and his life hid with Christ in God. When Christ appears, he will appear with Him.
It is important to notice that the death is always the same, for it is Christ's death. Death there was death. He died, and therein died to sin once. That death, ours by faith, is the only death spoken of. His death as a person who had been alive in this world was His death to sin. We are dead with Him in Colossians, dead with Him in Romans. It is death to sin, in Him and in us; only He had none, and we do not literally die but appropriate His death through grace.
But in Colossians we are looked at as having lived in sins; chap. 2:12; chap. 3:7. This coincides with Romans. But (chap. 2:12; chap. 3:1) we are also risen with Him, and we are also viewed as having been dead in sins (chap. 2:13) which so far coincides with Ephesians: only it does not go so far — not seating us in heavenly places, nor, as I have said, develop the doctrine of the body, nor the purpose of God. But the being risen with Christ takes the believer himself into a new state. It is not merely life in Christ. Christ having come down and borne his sins, coming into his place of death, the sins having been put away and forgiven, he is raised with Him, and thus enters on a new sphere of existence. He has done with all the elements or principles of this world; he is not to walk as one alive in this world subject to ordinances, as in a religion suited to the flesh; but to have his affections on things above, where Christ sits; he is dead, and his life is hid there, for Christ is his life, though he be not sitting there as yet himself. Hence he has put off the old man and put on the new, and this is renewed in knowledge — has his knowledge according to a wholly new sphere of existence, after the image of Him that created him.
In Colossians we are not spoken of as dead to sin nor law; but ourselves dead and risen; that is, more definitely associated with Christ in the matter. It looks onward, and not backward, as Romans does. The death is always Christ's own death; but in Romans it is viewed as delivering us as in this world from sin in the flesh and law; in Colossians, as associating us with Christ in death and resurrection. We are not dead lo anything in Colossians, as living here, though by Christ; but have died from one system and begun (neos) another. We are not alive in the world, nor manifested, nor sitting in heavenly places. Our life is hid above with Christ, and our heart and hopes are to follow after.
(The above valuable helps to the understanding of the difference between Romans and Colossians are extracted from an article in vol. 23, "Collected Writings of J.N.D.," commencing with p. 347. ED.)