The Truth about Ourselves
I would like to draw your attention to the words to be found in Romans 6:11, not ripped out and handled in an isolated fashion, but as they would have been originally understood by the believers in Rome; in the context of the immediately preceeding verses, Romans 6:1-10
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died has been justified from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all, but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
The question Paul is dealing with is in the first verse, and it is a question regarding how a Christian ought to act. Critically, it is not a question about how one becomes a Christian, and it applies only to those who have already confessed Jesus as Lord and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead; if have not done this, what Paul writes here is of no use to you, no matter your lineage, church membership, or even whether or not you have been baptized.
For Paul’s answer to the question involves and invokes, out of necessity, a firm and clear exposition on what it means to be a Christian. And what he explains is that being a Christian is not compatible at all with many of the modern ideas of Christianity!
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul declares that it is not a membership in a club, nor does it mean having the right lineage or nationality; being saved does not mean having water sprinkled on you and calling it ‘baptism’, or having some experience, ecstatic or otherwise; salvation cannot be merited by keeping the Law. Being a Christian, Paul declares, is not making a decision or even simply affirming that Jesus is God.
Becoming a Christian is not in man’s control. Paul explains in Romans 8:29-30, “Because those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers; and those whom He predestined, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified; and those whom He justified, He also glorified.” God has not called everybody with this effectual calling to obey the truth, Romans 2:5 says plainly that many “...are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”
And here in Romans 6:3-10 we see exactly how this regeneration and new birth occurs, it is all bound up in our becoming united with Christ Jesus!
Now consider just the enormity of what is revealed in these verses! We reminded ourselves something of this last time, I hope you remember! Jesus Christ was crucified, He died, and He was buried. A real and true death had occurred. He was certified as being well and truly dead, there was no hope of resuscitation. It is done, and final.
And so He was buried, and sealed within the tomb, with authority. And in that death, verse 7 declares, that legal relationship with sin He once had, has been unilaterally and undeniably severed, the relationship with sin is no longer present, the price has been paid.
And then, a glorious thing occurred – He has been removed from its reign and rule. He did not remain in that condemned state, He did not remain in a perpetual agony of death, but “through the glory of the Father”, Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, v4 says. Death and its master Sin, no longer have any right at all to touch Him, to control Him, to master Him. Said another way, Sin, and sin’s servant Death, have no ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ.
But it didn’t stop there, Jesus did not simply die “to sin once for all”, being done with sin once and forever, never to be repeated. He did die once and once only, but that isn’t where it ended! No! Now, He truly lives, and lives to God! For He was “raised from the dead through the glory of the Father”, verse 4 declares!
It’s not just that He is obedient, for He always was obedient, but that His prayer in John 17:5, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was”, this amazing thing, the Father has indeed accomplished!
Looking closely at these preceeding verses, from verse 3 through to verse 10 of Romans 6, we must realize that at no point, have we yet been admonished to do anything at all! But what we have been told, however, is who we are. We have been told the truth of ourselves, what is true of us! We have been united with Christ; and these things which happened to Him, have through our union with Him, happened to us.
This entire portion of Scripture has been fully, and entirely, about our union with Christ. And because of that union with Him, when He died, once and forever severed from the reign and rule of Sin, we died, once and forever severed from the reign and rule of sin! We have been baptized, immersed into Christ Jesus in His death, and on account of that as our starting-point, we have also subsequently been immersed into His burial and also into His resurrection.
And any application, any instruction for doing things, must of necessity proceed from this doctrinal understanding. Paul is never concerned to simply say “do this, don’t do that”. No, no! He instead desires that we adopt a right thinking, and on account of our thinking being corrected we may then work out what we are to do with fear and trembling, no matter the subject at hand, on account of how we think. Jesus Himself was no different, saying in Matthew 15:18 “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.” To eat with unwashed hands doesn’t defile the man!
And so the first thing Paul commands us to do is to look back on what we have learned as truth about ourselves, that on account of who and what we are, now that we are joined in union to Jesus Christ! The mere thought of continuing in sin expressed in verse 1 ought to make us shudder – the entire point of our union with Christ is to bring us out of the realm and rule of sin!
Let’s make certain that we emphasize the right things when we read it:
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
“Even so”.... or, as the Authorized puts it, “likewise”. Even as what? Likewise to what? It points directly toward Jesus Christ, it emphasizes what he has been saying all this time… we have been united with Christ, so what happened to Him, happened to us!
Just as Jesus Christ is dead to sin, so are we dead to sin. We are not dying, as a process, but the lordship of sin over us has been removed, the line controlling the puppet has been severed. Sin no longer controls us!
I do not, as many wrongly claim, make “myself dead to sin”. That is the popular teaching, that is the attempt of sinful man to make himself appear right, that is salvation by works. That, is only able to end in disaster and disappointment, it is doomed from the start. To make me the originator and decider in this is to give my self a priority that I neither warrant nor deserve!
God Himself has done this, and it has nothing to do with my own experience. I must take this as truth on faith, giving glory to God, as surely and as certainly as Abraham when he was “as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb” (4:19), believed “God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist” (4:17) and as Romans 4:22 proclaims, “Therefore IT WAS ALSO COUNTED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” We must believe this, not because of a feeling in my deceitful heart, but because God has declared it!
No, I am instead told to consider myself, the me that is, to be dead to sin; it is the most reasonable, most logical, most accurate conclusion that I can come to about myself on account of the reality of my union with Christ, to reckon myself to be dead to sin! I have looked at the evidence, I have weighed the facts, and I can only come to this one conclusion; just like a good lawyer, Paul has laid out the case and in his closing argument is re-iterating what I must now understand to be true of myself; in Christ, through my union with Him, I am dead to sin, here and now! At this present time, not some unknown point in the future! I am dead to sin. I needn’t go on wondering if this thing is so, I needn’t fear that I have fallen back into its dominion or lost my salvation, for Sin’s rule over me is finished! Sin was over me when I was in Adam, but I am now no longer in Adam, I am now in Christ!
Not only am I to consider myself to be dead to sin, but also in my union with Christ Jesus, I am to consider myself to be alive to God. And once again, it is critical that we understand that we ourselves do not cause this to happen, instead it is true because of and in our union with Christ Jesus.
And although we started to look at this idea in verse 10, speaking of Jesus Christ that “the life that He lives, He lives to God”, there is an incredible aspect of this we’ve not yet touched on, but let me step back a bit to explain.
In the Old Testament, in the giving the Law and its provisions, especially seen well in Exodus 28 and 29, you see that certain things are identified as being used in the service of God. These things are set aside for that use, and for that use only. Just to provide some examples, in Exodus 28:2 we see that the clothes for the high priest are designed to be out of certain fabrics and certain articles, we see the explicit instructions on how to make them and construct them, and that they are to be set apart for the purpose of ministering to God, they are not to be the ordinary clothing for the ordinary, every-day activities of the priests. This specific outfit, if you will, is dedicated for use before God.
Similarly, down at the end of chapter 30, you see a formula given for a very specific perfume, to be made by a perfumer, that was to be used as incense in the tent of meeting, and then a warning not to make it for yourselves, because it was to be set aside and dedicated to being used for God, saying in Exodus 30:38 “Whoever shall make any like it, to use as perfume, shall be cut off from his people.”
In other words, these things were to be set aside, being used specifically to God, in fact they were to be so very separated from the mundane life of every-day people that the people understood that these things were dedicated to God; in other words, they were to be holy.
And now, here in Romans 6:10, we read that Jesus’ very life is dedicated and set aside to God, and in v11 because of our union with Jesus Christ, our lives are also set aside and dedicated to God! We are, to pull these thoughts together into a single word, holy.
And let me reiterate, because it is important… this is entirely a work of God, it is a summation of what God says is true about us. We are holy, we are sanctified in its most basic definition, meaning our very lives are set apart and dedicated to God. We have not made ourselves holy, instead God has made us so. Whether you translate it as holy, or sanctified, or consecrated, or saint, they all mean the same thing, and each of these descriptions apply equally to all who are in Christ Jesus! Now before you get thinking in the wrong direction, although we are now holy and sanctified, that does not mean we are fully conformed to that pattern of life, as Romans 8:29, 1 John 3:3, and elsewhere Scripture makes clear that just because we are set apart and dedicated to God doesn’t mean our walk matches our reality, indeed even this present portion in Romans 6 makes it clear that we have need to be continually reminded to walk according to our new reality rather than as our old self!
But all of this is due entirely to this union with Christ Jesus, there is no earthly authority to whom God has given the right to make such a claim.
It is no wonder, then that Paul takes such a shocked view at the question in Romans 6:1; “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”
For us, for we who are sanctified, we whose subservience to sin was severed, to continue in sin is abhorrent, it is madness, it is a denial of who and what we are!
So how should we understand all of this, how is this profitable to us for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness that we may be thoroughly equipped?
Let me start in a negative sense; these verses do not mean that I am to die to sin, nor does it say that sin is dead, yet further we must never fear losing our salvation, for indeed, sin is against my very nature.
Sin is still very much alive, these verses do not speak of sin dying, but of the me that was dying to sin. I have contact with sin constantly in my body of flesh, it remains as sin’s body, and so my flesh remains subject to the penalty of sin, namely death. But I myself am not, it is I who died to sin, not the other way around. I myself do not fall under its penalty, although my flesh does. I am not my flesh!
Further, I am not to die to sin, to attempt to do this; death has already happened in the past through my union with Jesus Christ! I, at a definite time in the past, died to sin; to reckon or consider a thing is not to do it, it is to consider and consciously hold that settled fact before my thinking, to remember it.
This abounding of grace is the most radical, most fundamental change which can ever happen to a person, even the death of my flesh is insignificant in comparison to my now being dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus! If this were a thing I declared, if this were a stated I decided upon, it would not and could not last; we get excited about some new thing and take it up, and after a few months or years it goes to the wayside – but not so with God! For, as Paul declares later in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We need not fear these things, we need not fear losing our union with Christ on account of the effects of these things! In Philippians 1:6 Paul declares it this way, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Sin, therefore, is abhorrent to my nature, it is foreign to the me that is. Not only have I died to sin, but I am set apart as holy to God, my life is to be separated for use by Him! And the operative action, the only thing I am commanded here, is to realize that fact, to keep it foremost in my mind and in my heart at all times.
Now, I may forget to reckon and consider myself as dead to sin and alive to God, but that does not change the fact that it has happened, praise God! And if I do fall into some sin, I need not fear my salvation is lost, but I may come to my heavenly Father in repentance and he will receive me as a wayward but now repentant child, not as a sinner in Adam, for now I am in Christ, I am united with Him! I am no longer breaking the law, but and am wounding the heart of my loving Father in heaven, who has declared in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
And what an amazing difference that makes!
Let us pray!