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Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ - An Exposition of Romans 6:1-14

Posted by James P. McGarvey , 15 February 2014 · 1203 views

(I gave this message at Pines Baptist Church, Pembroke Pines, Florida on Sunday February 9, 2014. You can listen to the message online here.)

Dr. Maurice Irvin, who was my pastor while I was at student at Nyack College, writes of an attempt he made at baking a pie. He had seen a beautiful picture of a pecan pie in a magazine accompanied by a recipe. So after shopping for the ingredients he attempted to bake the pie. The result of his efforts, however, in his words, was "a parched pastry" black in color "about the thickness of a pancake" and as hard as a rock.

He writes, "At that point I looked at the picture in the magazine of the beautiful pie I was supposed to be making, then I looked down at the black, shriveled up, rock-hard thing I had produced. I took my pie out into the backyard and buried it." He continues,

"There have been times when I have felt like doing the same thing with my life. I have looked at the pictures in God's Word of what a Christian is supposed to be. Then I have considered what I am. And the contrast embarrasses me. There must be others who at times have been disappointed in themselves. The Bible describes a life of holiness. Ours is marked by impurity. In God's Word the standard is graciousness, but we are marked by unkindness. We see sweetness there but bitterness within; love there, selfishness in us; honesty there, lies from us; hope in Scripture, discouragement in us; loveliness there, lust in our hearts; generosity there, greed here; victory there, failure here. And such shortcomings make us feel like taking our lives out and burying them."

Perhaps you as I have had similar feelings. We are all too conscious of our sin. Perhaps even to the point of discouragement. Paul addresses the dynamics of this struggle in the text before us. What Dr. Irvin describes in all too familiar terms is our need of sanctification. When we are saved that is, at out conversion, we are justified delivered from the penalty of our sin. But the challenge we now face is our sanctification. Living a life of holiness set apart to God. Living in victory over the power of sin in our daily lives.

In the chapters preceding our text the apostle Paul presents God's plan of salvation for sinful man. In chapter three he emphatically declares that every human being is "under sin," (3:8) (ESV) declaring that "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." (3:10-12)

He continues, (3:23a) "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." He then proceeds to declare the only solution to man's guilt before God is justification by faith alone. He makes the case for our justification through the death and resurrection o f Jesus Christ. Chapter four ends with these words, "Jesus our Lord,...was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification."

He continues in chapter five, (5:8-9) (ESV) "...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God."

So in chapters three through five, Paul tells us how to be saved. Then in chapters six through eight he tells us how we are to live after we have been saved. As W. H. Griffith Thomas has written,

"Union with Christ carries with it not one, but two results. First of all there is the efficacy of the Atonement for our guilty past as we share in the merits of Christ's death."

That's justification. We are declared righteous in God's sight because the penalty of our sin has been paid by the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross over 2000 years ago. Our sin was placed on Him. His righteousness is imputed or credited to our account. So Paul could write the Corinthians, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (5:21 ESV)

Dr. Thomas continues, "...secondly, there is the efficacy of the Resurrection for our unholy present as we share the power of Christ's life." This is our sanctification, our "spiritual condition" as we seek to live a holy life. And what Paul goes on to say in chapter six is that our sanctification, living in victory over sin, is also the result of our union with Christ
in his death and resurrection. Neal Anderson writes,

"Sin hasn't died nor is it removed when we receive Christ, but our relationship with sin has ended and its power to dominate is broken through the believer's crucifixion, resurrection and righteousness in Christ."

Romans chapter six outlines for us this wonderful truth. There are three key words that give us the framework to understand and experience this freedom in Christ. First, the word "know" found three times, verses three, six and nine. Second, the word "consider," "count" or "reckon" in verse eleven. And thirdly, the word "present" or "offer" in verses twelve and thirteen. As someone has said "Know who you are. Believe it with all your heart. And yield to God." (J MacArthur)

First of all, Paul begins with what we need to know. Chapter six begins with this question, (ESV) "What shall we say, then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? In other words, having been justified shall we take advantage of God's grace and forgiveness by continuing to sin? Paul says emphatically, "By no means! "No Way!" He then asks another question, verse two, "How can we who died to sin still live in it?" It's a rhetorical question, more of a statement than a question. You don't expect an answer from a rhetorical question because the answer is so obvious. And in this case the answer is found in the question he poses. If you have died to sin how can you continue to live in it? You cannot be dead and alive to something at the same time.

Before I continue, let me point out the significance of the word "continue." Paul is not teaching that the one who is justified will never sin again. That's why he chose the word "continue." It means "to stay longer," to "prolong a stay," to "remain on" (Analytical p. 158)

For example, it is used of taking up residence in a house. When you move into the house, you remain there. You decide this is where you will be staying, where you will be living. Paul is saying, the one who has been justified will not live in sin; will not continue in sin. John made the same point, in1 john 1:6, (ESV)

"If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. Again in 1 John 3:6, "No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him." (ESV)

Neither Paul or John are saying a believer will never sin again. But they are both saying that a believer will not live in habitual sin, the key phrases being, "continue in sin," "walk in darkness," or "keeps on sinning." Here's Paul's point, If
you been saved, justified, chapters three through five, you cannot continue to have the same relationship with sin as
you had before you were saved.

There is a warning implied here. As Dr. Donald Barnhouse has written, "Holiness starts where justification finishes and if holiness does not start, we have the right to suspect that justification ever started either."

In other words, when a sinner is justified he or she is declared righteous in God's sight. That's a legal transaction. But at the same time there is a transformation that takes place in the life of the one God has justified, making it possible for them to have a whole new relationship with sin. Paul put it this way, in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (ESV) That's why, for Paul it
would be unthinkable for one who is justified to continue in sin, because of what took place at the moment of conversion. "We died to sin," verse two. A death took place at the moment of our conversion. In other words, you are no longer who you used to be in your relationship to sin. He goes on to explain, as he asks another question in verse
three. "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?" What was the purpose of our death with Christ? Look at verse four.

"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."

That is what water baptism symbolizes. Buried with Christ in His death and resurrected with Christ into a new life. He
continues, verse five, "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."

Notice the words used by Paul is describing this baptism. Verse three, the believer is "baptized into Christ Jesus" and
"baptized into his death," verse 5, "united with him in a death," and "united with him in a resurrection." (Emphasis mine)

The word translated "united" means to be "planted together," "grown together, closely entwined together." (Analytical p. 384) We are planted together with Christ in His death and His resurrection. John MacArthur,

"We have been immersed into Christ and when He died, we died. When He was buried, as it were, we were buried. And when He rose, we rose and everything is different....everything is different. This is a mystery to be taken by faith by a miracle I can't explain, by a mysterious divine act of God. When a person believes in Jesus Christ unto salvation, that person is placed into the death, burial and resurrection of Christ to die in Him, to be buried in Him and to rise with Him to walk in newness of life. We therefore live our lives according to verse 4, in a newness of life that brings glory to the Father...."He continues,
"Planted in His death, in His burial and blooming in newness of life. Christ's calvary was your calvary and Christ's Easter was your Easter. To be saved is not an addition, it's a transformation. It's not getting something new, it's becoming someone new and it flows from this real union of life with Christ."
What does that new life look like? Verse six, Paul goes on to say, "For we know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, (NIV might be rendered powerless) so that we would no longer be slaves to sin."

There are the three things we need to know, to stop and remember as we daily confront sin and self and the world. First, "our old self was crucified with him (Christ)," verse six. This phrase describes something that "happened to us." (Stott) We did not crucify the old self it is not something we have done. Rather our old self was crucified with him. The word translated "old self" is literally, the "old man." The term refers to the unregenerate man, who we were in Adam. New English Bible, "man as we once were." Who we were before we were saved. This "old self" was crucified with Christ was put to death on the cross, says Paul. A. B. Simpson has written, (Romans pg. 135)

"When He was offered up on Calvary, it was not only for our sins, but for our sinfulness. In Him we were recognized by God as hanging on that cross with Him and dying when He died, so that His death represents our death, and when we recognize it, appropriate it and identify ourselves with it, it becomes the same as if we had been crucified, and our old life had gone out with His."

Baptism symbolizes death, buried with Christ and raised from the dead with Christ. Verse five, "united with him in his resurrection." Death, by very definition means the end of life. Death brings the life of something to an end. In this case the "old self," the unregenerate man that you were before your conversion. And just as burial, as someone has said is "the proof of death," (MacArthur) resurrection means the beginning of something new!

Again, Dr. Simpson is helpful here. (138-139)

"It is not said that sin is dead. By no means. Sin is very far from dead. It surrounds us on every side, like the dark and
murky atmosphere, like an overflowing flood. But we are dead to sin. What is dead? Is it a part of us? Is it one of our natures that is dead? Is it some principle in us that is dead? Is it the evil in us that is dead? Nay, Ye are dead, the whole of you. The old man, as an individual, the person is as if he were not the same person any more, but had passed out of existence, and another person had been born from above and dropped right out of heaven to earth instead."

Paul put it this way, Galatians 2:20. (ESV) "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me."

Friends, this is the very essence of Christianity. We must know this truth if we are to progress in our sanctification.

Notice secondly then, in verse six that, the "body of sin" is rendered powerless. What is the "body of sin"? William Newell writes, (Romans Verse by Verse 92) "The 'body of sin' refers to our bodies as yet unredeemed, and not delivered from sin's rule..."

The term "body of sin" refers to the authority of sin or the rule of sin in our lives. Remember how Paul described the condition of the Ephesians before their conversion to Christ. Their lives were dominated by sin. Sin was their master. He describes their condition before coming to Christ, Ephesians 21-3,

"...you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience -- among whom we all once lived in the passions [lusts] of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body [flesh] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." (ESV)

Before we are saved the testimony of Scripture is that we live in bondage to sin. Apart from Christ our lives are dominated by sin. In other words, before the new birth, sin is our master. At the end of verse six Paul describes our pre-conversion state as being a "slave to sin." But, says Paul, that all changes when we come to Christ. The "body of sin" is rendered powerless. So J. B Phillips translates it, "let us never forget that our old selves died with him on the cross that the tyranny of sin over us might be broken."

As John Stott says, "We were thus crucified with Christ,...that our sinful nature might be deprived of its power." Notice Paul does not say that the body of sin is destroyed. Rather it has been rendered inoperative. It has "been deprived of its strength." Sin has not been annihilated, but is "robbed of it's power." It's been "put out of business," as someone has said. So Newell explains further, "...the 'body of sin' is to cease to have any power to bring the believer into bondage to sin..."

Friends, we must know this truth if we are to live a sanctified life. The "old self" is dead and buried with Christ so that we can walk in newness of life, verse seven, and the body of sin has been rendered powerless.

Thirdly then, we are no longer slaves to sin, verses six and seven,

"We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, (rendered powerless NIV) so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been freed from sin." (ESV)

Paul uses a very powerful metaphor in describing the ultimate outcome of what God has done for us with regard to the Christians' relationship with sin, the metaphor of being set free from slavery. Slavery was prevalent in his day. Every audience Paul spoke to or wrote to was familiar with slavery. Slaves were a part of every day life in the Roman empire. Slavery not only spoke of the loss of individual freedom but of bondage and loss of dignity. The slave lived in subjugation dominated by and controlled by his owner, living as though he had no will of his own. That is the imagery
used here of the unbeliever's relationship to sin. The word translated "freed" is the word "justified." Because we have been united with Christ in his death and resurrection, we have been set free from slavery of sin. We are no longer
bound by the power of sin in our bodies.

Remember, Paul is speaking of what we should know. Do you understand this truth? Do you understand the power of this truth? Are you living in the power of this truth?

So Paul can repeat in verse fourteen, "...sin shall no longer be your master." And in verse eighteen, "You have been set free from sin and become slaves to righteousness." And Paul goes on to describe the irrevocable nature of this transaction that has taken place. The finality of what was accomplished in the life of the believer through our death and resurrection with Christ in verses eight through ten. (ESV)

"Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God."

Let me illustrate it this way. Let's say you came to the United States as a political refugee from a foreign country. You had lived under the repression of a communist state. You suffered economic deprivation. You suffered persecution for what you chose to believe. You were deprived of certain personal freedoms, free speech, the right to dissent and so forth. But once you stepped on American soil and were granted the rights afforded an American citizen you were free from the bondage of an oppressive, tyrannical state. The communist government that oppressed and controlled you no longer has any legal right to limit or interfere with the personal freedoms that you now enjoy under the authority of the United States' Constitution.

Friends, if you are a believer born again by the Spirit of God you have died with Christ and you have been united with Him in his resurrection. The penalty for you sins has been paid. The person you once were, the "old self" has been put
to death. Dead and buried! The "body of sin" has been rendered powerless. The power of sin has been broken. You are no longer a slave to sin! Friends, do you know this truth? If you know this truth, are you living in the power of this truth?

This brings us to the second word that I spoke of earlier. It all starts with what we know. But there is another essential step. Secondly, Paul says, verse eleven, "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." The older versions use the word "reckon." Some translate it "count." Someone has said, (J McArthur) consider can "refer to calculating in the mind, or reasoning in the mind, or affirming in the mind that something is so...to affirm it as true."

The idea here is to live in the light of the truth that you have come to know. It is helpful to point out that while the crucifixion Paul has been speaking of happened only once in the past, the reckoning or counting happens over and over again. What we are counting on, the truth we are considering took place once in the past but you will have to go back and count on it over and over again. John Stott,

"Now 'reckoning' is not make believe. It is not screwing up our faith to believe something we do not believe. We are not to pretend that our old nature has died when we know perfectly well that it has not. We are rather to realize that our old self -- that is our former self-- did die, thus paying the penalty of it sins and putting an end to its career. So Paul says 'reckon yourselves' (AV), or better 'consider yourselves' (RSV), or better still 'regard yourselves' (NEB), as being what in fact you are - dead to sin and alive to God.'" He continues, "Once we realize that our old life has ended --the score settled, the debt paid, the law satisfied --we shall want to have - nothing more to do with it."

What happens when we are tempted? When I find myself tempted by those thoughts that I should not think? When what I see with my eyes stimulates desires that I should not entertain? This is when the power of "counting" or "considering it" comes into play. Again Dr. Simpson,

"When the old self seems to return, refuse to recognize it as yourself, and that attitude will destroy it. When the corpse insists on rising from the grave, and thrusting itself upon you consciousness, let the wand of faith wave over it and bid it back to its grave, and it will return to its place in the cemetery of the soul."

Friends, this is the theological basis, the theological grounds for Paul's promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13. (ESV)

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

Did you hear what he said? There will never be a temptation that a believer cannot overcome in Christ. Provision has been made in Christ for victory over every temptation we will ever face. That is an astounding statement and promise. The question is, do we believe it? Or perhaps the more honest question, do we want to believe it?

This brings us to the third word. First we know the truth. We know who we are in Christ: our "old self" was crucified with Christ; the "body of sin" is rendered powerless; we are no longer slaves to sin. Second, we are to "consider" this truth, "count" on it. Affirm it as being true. In other words, believe the truth you have come to know. Take ownership of it. Over and over again, at every point of temptation, in every time of temptation. But thirdly, we must, present or offer our self to God, verses twelve through fourteen. (ESV)

"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. (so that you obey its evil desires NIV)
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. For sin will have no
dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under grace."

If step one, what we "know" involves the mind, and step two, "consider" it or affirm it involves the heart, in other words, believe it, step three, "present", "offer" or "yield" involves the will.

In verse 12 there is a "therefore" and a command. The "therefore" connects what he has just been writing about, with what he is about to say. Paul is saying, for this reason "Let not sin...reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its evil desires." Here Paul identifies where the battle will be won or lost. If we let sin rule our lives we will obey its evil desires.
So Paul goes on to say what we would expect him to say, verse thirteen, "Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness." And then a positive command, "present yourselves to God and "your members to God as instruments for righteousness." The word translated "instruments" is the word "weapons."

Here is what Paul is saying: We have the choice of offering the parts of our bodies to sin as weapons of wickedness, or to God as weapons of righteousness. We have the choice of offering the members of our bodies: our eyes, our ears, our tongues, our arms and legs, our sexuality, our brains with its thoughts, our hearts with its emotions, to sin as weapons of wickedness, or to God as weapons of righteousness.

Paul is reminding us we are in a spiritual battle that we cannot afford to take lightly. It's like saying, okay reader, "the balls in your court." "Don't let sin rule you life!" The process of our sanctification will depend on us making the right choice, not once, but over and over and over again.

Thomas Schreiner in the English Standard Version Study Bible summarizes it so well.

"The tension surfaces here between what God has already accomplished and the responsibility of his people to obey. They are still tempted by desires to sin and must not let those desires gain control. Each day they must give themselves afresh to God."

Similarly, Paul wrote the Philippian church, "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."

God has made provision for victory over sin but we must choose to take advantage of it. I close with this word from John MacArthur,

"The whole thing can be summed up in saying the old self was a slave to sin; the new self is a slave to righteousness, that's the change. The old self was in perfect agreement with the fallen flesh, the new self is in perfect disagreement with the fallen flesh. No more bondage, no more bondage. Verse 7 sums it up. "For he who has died, is free from sin." When you died in Christ, you're freed from sins tyranny. The controlling dominating sovereignty of sin has been broken. That's [what] Verse 14 says 'Sin shall not be master over you for you're not any longer under the law, you're under grace.' So that justified person is not only declared righteous, but set free from the dominating power of sin. A sanctified person set free to the dominating power of righteousness."

James P McGarvey All Rights Reserved