Dead to Sin, Alive to God
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
In Romans 5, we learned that when we are justified by faith we have peace with God and that God’s grace covers all our sins. If that’s the case, why not carry on and sin some more? Paul answers this question in Romans 6: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (6:1). The answer to that question is “By no means” (6:2). And the reason is union with Christ.
Some time ago, I was issued a traffic ticket. The officer explained that the offense would be on my driving record, but then told me that the state of Illinois had provided a way in which the offense could be removed. “You can take the class,” he said. “And it will be as if this had never happened.”
Now think about the way in which this system works. We can reasonably assume that one day a rather tired administrator yawned as he or she scrolled through a long list of all the Smiths driving in Illinois to find the wretched one against whose name an offense should be recorded.
Then, a few weeks later, another administrator would have the laborious task of scrolling through the same list for the purpose of pressing the delete button and erasing all record of the offense. The process is legal, but it is profoundly impersonal. No relationship is involved.
It is a wonderful truth that Jesus died to erase the record of our sins. But if that is all we grasp, our love for God will be as weak as the affection I have for the computer operator who erased my offense.
Christ died not only to clear your record of sin, but also to bring you into a loving relationship with God. Salvation is not an arm’s length transaction performed by an unknown heavenly administrator. It is God reaching out to establish an intimate union with you.
United with Christ
When you come to faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit makes a connection between the death and resurrection of Jesus and your life today. “If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5).
What does it mean to be “united” to Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection?
I find it helpful to think of it like this: Certain things were once true of you—you were under the reign of sin, you were alienated from God, and you were powerless to do anything about it (Romans 5:21; Ephesians 2:12; 2:1). If you had stayed in that condition, you would have ended up under condemnation. But when you came to faith in Jesus that person ceased to exist (Romans 8:1). He or she died with Jesus at the cross. That’s what Paul means when he says, “we have died with Christ” (Romans 6:8).
But it doesn’t end there. Paul also wrote about us being “united with [Christ] in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5). When the Holy Spirit plunged you into Christ, He brought a new person into being. Now you are under the reign of grace, you are a child of God, and your destiny is everlasting life (Romans 5:21; Galatians 4:4–7; Romans 6:22–23). You still fail in many ways, but no matter how often you fail you cannot ever revert to the person you once were. That person is dead and gone forever. He or she has ceased to exist.
Union with Christ is so much more than turning over a new leaf or making a decision; it is the life of Christ flowing into you by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus spoke about this union when He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches” (John 15:5). Just as the sap rises from the vine and flows into the branches, so the life of Christ will flow from Him into His people. This is much more than a legal transaction in which your sins are forgiven and your passport is stamped for heaven. This is the life of God entering into you. It’s hard to imagine a more intimate picture.
When the Holy Spirit unites us with Christ, He invades our lives with His love. A good marriage is both legal and relational. It is both a binding agreement and an intimate union. It promotes deep security and deep affection. God wants to bring us into a relationship of love that is both secure and intimate. It is secure because God makes a covenant with us, and it is intimate because it involves union with Jesus Christ.
Blessed in Christ
Consider the difference between a pair of socks and a pair of trousers. You know what happens when you put a pair of socks in the wash? One of them gets lost. The problem, of course, is that there is nothing that unites them together. The trousers are different. I have never known a pair of trousers to come out of the wash with one leg missing.
God does not throw out blessings from heaven like socks: “Would anyone like forgiveness? Any takers for everlasting life?” God gives us one blessing, Jesus Christ. He has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3). All of God’s blessings come to us in Jesus, and none of them come to us apart from Him.
Forgiveness is found in Jesus, eternal life is found in Jesus, holiness is found in Jesus, and strength is found in Jesus. God has made Him our “wisdom… righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). These gifts are all joined together inseparably in Him, and if you are in Christ, all of these blessings are yours.
Set Free by Christ
Being in Christ equips you for your battle against sin. Once you were destined for defeat in the battle, but now in Christ, you are positioned for victory. “Sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14 NIV).
Picture yourself on a field of battle. Your unit comes under heavy fire, and you are taken captive. You surrender your weapons, and you are carted off to what looks like a massive cage. The man in charge of the cage looks quite terrifying. When he shouts orders, the people inside do what he commands. You value your life, and so you decide to do the same.
For the next year, your whole life is in the cage. You sleep, you are fed, and you exercise, but all the time you are under the power of your enemy. And as long as you are in the cage, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.
Then one night, you hear the roar of an engine and the sound of gunfire. Your captain has come with all his forces to set you free. As you climb into his jeep, he hands you a gun: “Take this,” he says, “you’re back in the battle now.”
The next day the man who runs the cage comes looking for you. He shouts orders, but you no longer have to do what he says. You are not in the cage. You are free. When you are in Christ, you are in an entirely new position. You are free, and that means you are in a position to fight. Sin will always be your enemy, but it is no longer your master.
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions… but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (Romans 6:12–13).
Secure in Christ
Faith puts you in Christ, where you are completely safe—even when you are full of fear.
A friend of mine tells the story of the first time he flew on an airplane.
When he boarded the plane he was in a middle seat of three. Next to the widow was an old lady who looked really nervous. On the aisle was a businessman who seemed like he had done this a thousand times before. My friend, who was in the middle, was up for the journey, but never having flown before, he was just a little apprehensive.
When the plane took off, the businessman opened the newspaper. My friend held onto the armrests of his seat. The old lady reached for the barf bag.
When the lunch was served, the businessman ate the lot, my friend ate half of his, the old lady just looked at hers and didn’t even touch it.
Here is the conclusion to the story: all three of these passengers arrived at the same place at the same time! They had a very different experience of the journey, but they were all equally safe.
Your eternal safety does not rest on how well you do in the Christian life; it rests on you being in Christ.
A Christian is a person who has been united with Christ in His death and resurrection. When you were united with Christ by faith, the person you were before ceased to exist, and a new person came into being. You still have many struggles, you will fail in many ways, but since Christ has set you free, you are in an entirely new position.
Discovering your new position in Christ is one of the most important keys to living the Christian life. Sin will always be your enemy, but it is no longer your master. You are now in a position to put up a fight.
- How would you describe the kind of relationship God wants to have with you?
- How would answer the person who says, “Now that I’m saved, I’ll live however I want to”?
- In your own words, what does the illustration of the socks and the trousers tell us about how God’s blessings come to us?
- How do you respond to the statement: “Sin will always be your enemy, but it is no longer your master.”
- How would knowing that you are secure in Christ, impact your experience of the Christian life?