Foundational to having victory over sin as a believer in Jesus is understanding our union with Christ and applying that union and all its implications to our lives. That is the very logic of Paul in Romans 6 when He says “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). At the conclusion of 10 verses explaining the truth of the believer’s union with their Savior Jesus Christ we are told to consider ourselves to be dead to sin because of our union with Christ. So just who are we in union with? And how does that union affect our battle and victory over sin?
At the end of Matthew 3 and the beginning of chapter 4 there are three things that we learn about Jesus which help to explain why this union with Jesus is effectual in our battle against sin. First, Jesus identified Himself with sinful humanity like us at the beginning of His ministry. John the Baptist was baptizing people who needed to repent of their sins. Jesus came to be baptized and John the Baptist had the right reaction: “But John tried to prevent Him saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me’” (Matthew 3:14). Jesus responded “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (v. 15). Jesus was not being baptized because He needed to repent of sins (He was the spotless Lamb of God!). No, He was identifying Himself with sinful humanity as our substitute, right from the start of His earthly ministry. Of course, that substitutionary life lived in our place culminated in a substitutionary death in our place which would open up forgiveness of sins and the application by faith of His righteous life to our account (1 Thessalonians 5:10). We can have victory over sin because Jesus lived and died in our place and we are in union with Him.
Second, we are told what happened when Jesus came up from the waters of baptism: “A voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Because we are in union with Christ we do not have to be concerned with what our standing before God is. If God is well-pleased with His Son and we are in His Son, then God is well pleased with us positionally. If we know we are fully accepted before God by saving grace then we are free to labor to be well-pleasing practically in all of our life before God by His enabling grace.
Third, after the baptism, Jesus was immediately led away for temptation from Satan (Matthew 4:1-11). Often we view this text to teach us about how to resist temptation like Jesus did, and certainly we do learn some important truths about resisting Satan and temptation from this text. But remember, if we have repented of our sins and trusted Christ alone as our Lord and Savior then we are in union with Him. His victory is our victory. His triumph over Satan is our triumph over Satan.
These are three vignettes of Jesus at the start of His ministry which teach us this: Jesus is our substitute who is well pleasing to the Father and who has victory over Satan. By virtue of our union with Him we too can have victory over sin. By faith we must live out our union with this marvelous Savior.