UNITED WITH CHRIST - Dead to Sin
UNITED WITH CHRIST
“The Believer’s Relationship to Sin”
"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 have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been 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 self 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 is freed from sin. Now if we have 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. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. “(Romans 6:1-14NASB95)
For the past couple of weeks we have been studying the Scriptures trying to gain a better understanding of who we are in Christ.
Why are we doing this? We are doing this because until we know who we are we can’t become who we are. We all live out of some identity. In other words how I see myself will determine the way that I live my life.
For instance if you have been victimized in your past chances are good that you see yourself as a victim and you will live your life with a victim’s mentality.
A Christian has a unique identity that should determine the way that they live. Your identity as a Christian should shape and influence every part of your life. Unfortunately many, many Christians do not know who they really are. Therefore their Christianity is not the dominating influence in their lives, they see their faith as important, but it is simply another part of their lives. They see themselves primarily as a victim who is a Christian along with being a parent and a wife or some other responsibilities they have. In other words something other than their relationship with Christ shapes and influences them.
Let me put it plainly. If you claim to be a Christian that identity should be the dominating factor in your life.
What we are talking about is the believers union with Christ. This is why Paul so frequently refers to salvation and being a believer as being “in Christ”. To be in “in Christ” means that we have become “new creatures”. In God’s sight we have undergone the ultimate extreme makeover! How extensive is this makeover? Paul goes on to say that the old things have passed away. All the things associated with your past sinful lifestyle – your sin, your guilt – the impending judgment all of that has been done away. Your old nature has been dealt with. Paul says in Romans six that our old self – which means the old me was crucified and buried and you have been raised with Christ to walk in “newness of life”. What does he say in 2 Cor. 5:17
"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17NASB95)
Paul says in Romans six that in our resurrection with Christ we have been raised to walk in “newness of life”. That is a phrase worthy of our contemplation and reflection. What does it mean to walk in “newness of life”? It means that our union with Christ makes everything about our lives new, it is a different kind of life. Newness of life means that I am spiritually alive whereas before I was spiritually dead. Newness of life gives meaning, direction and purpose to my life. Newness of life gives meaning, direction and purpose to my life. Newness of life means I now have access to all the resources of my Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ! This newness of life with all of its benefits flows from my union with Christ.
What are the implications of our union with Christ?
1. Our union with Christ means that “what happened to him is valid for us in him.” That means that we share in the accomplishments of Christ (such as he passive and his active obedience) and we share in the promise of Christ! One commentator writes “There is a union between Christ and Christians so that what happened to Christ is counted by God as happening to us.
2. We are new creatures – 2 Cor. 5:17
3. We have Christ living in us – Galatians 2;20
4. We have been raised to walk in newness of life – Romans 6
Another way of looking at this truth is to think in terms of relationship. Union with Christ means that you have a new relationship with Christ. That relationship with Christ changes your relationship to everything else in your life.
One of the relationships that undergoes a significant change is your relationship to sin! Remember you can’t become who you are until you know who you are!
God saved you to change you! One of God’s goals in our salvation is to make us like Christ.
"For 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 brethren;” (Romans 8:29NASB95)
This process of change is called sanctification. Sanctification is a process that will continue throughout our lives. Sanctification requires effort from both us and God and it is guaranteed to happen. Paul introduces another component that is necessary for us to make progress in our sanctification. That is knowledge. Look at the first part of verse 3
“Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” (Romans 6:3NASB95)
What is it that Paul is wanting us to know? Paul tells us that one of the things that we need to know and to understand is our relationship to sin now that we are in Christ. What is the major impediment in your life that keeps you from becoming like Christ? Sin! Christ and sin are like oil and water or dogs and cats! They just don’t go together! Therefore in order for us to become like Christ sin must be properly dealt with in our lives. In order to become like Christ, to grow as a Christian I must experience a decreasing frequency of sin in my life. Even though I am a Christian I will always sin until I am finally glorified in heaven. Still the goal is to yield to the Holy Spirit so that we can break the habits and the patterns of sin that are displeasing to God and replace them with new habits and new patterns of obedience that are pleasing to God.
Because certain ways and certain sinful habits seem to have us in their grip we can’t imagine living or being free from their power. Yet the Bible teaches that we don’t have to and we shouldn’t be enslaved any longer to sin. Why is that? How can that be? Paul answers that for us in Romans 6:2
"May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? “
Take your pen/pencil and underline the words “died to sin”. If you are a Christian those are some of the most important words you will ever hear. James Montgomery Boice writes “Romans 6:2 is the key to understanding the doctrine of salvation. To understand this statement is to understand how to live a holy life.”
If that statement is true and I believe that it is then we need to work hard at understanding what Paul is trying to teach us.
I. THE QUESTION
"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1NASB95)
Why would Paul ask such a question? The reason that Paul asks this question is, it is the natural response to a proper presentation of the gospel of grace. Paul asks this question in anticipation to what he has just written in Romans 5:20.
"The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,” (Romans 5:20NASB95)
When we preach the pure gospel of grace, when you share with a co-worker, a family member, or a friend that God offers the forgiveness of sins and eternal life freely to all those who will trust in Christ alone by faith alone – purely based upon God’s grace – apart from any “good works” we might try and offer, many people will think that the gospel is too good to be true. There are so many people that think that they have to earn God’s favor. The way they try and earn God’s favor is through keeping score with God. They hope the good in their life outweighs the bad in their lives and therefore God will accept them based upon their good works. The Jews believed they could be saved by keeping the Law – in other words by through their good works. Now Paul comes along and says good works have nothing to do with salvation! Salvation is not by works it is by grace!
Can’t you see the wheels of their minds beginning to turn as they think through the implications of what Paul is saying? Well if good works don’t have any bearing on my salvation, if salvation is all of grace, and the more I sin the more grace abounds then why shouldn’t I just go ahead and sin all that I want and grace will take care of it! How would you respond to that line of thinking? Better yet how did Paul respond to that line of thinking? Notice what he says. MAY IT NEVER BE! The ESV translates it as BY NO MEANS! Other translations say GOD FORBID! Paul says to continue to live in sin for one who claims to be a Christian is absolutely unthinkable!
Unfortunately there are in the church those who teach that a person can indeed be saved and continue to live in sin. That teaching that way of thinking clearly contradicts what the Bible teaches and teaches very clearly.
Let me give you several reasons why it is unthinkable for one who claims to be a Christian to go on living in sin. When the Bible talks about living in sin it is referring to a lifestyle that is characterized by and dominated by sinful attitudes and actions and continued unbroken disobedience to the commands of God. Please don’t misunderstand Paul is not advocating some sort of perfectionism whereby we as Christians never sin. The reality is Christians do sin, the Bible describes Christians as falling into sin but they get up and repent of their sin. They will not and they cannot continue to live a life of sin. Why is it unthinkable for a Christian to go on living in sin?
1. It overlooks God’s purpose in the plan of salvation.
God’s purpose is to save us from our sins. Simply remember all the times you have heard the Christmas story read. The angel makes the announcement to Joseph that his young bride to be is going to have a child, and that child will be called Jesus and then do you remember what the angel said? HE WILL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS! Christ saves us from the punishment of sin, but he saves us from more than that! He saves us from the guilt of sin, but he saves us from more than that! He saves us from the presence of sin but he saves us from more than that! Jesus saves us from the practice of sin now! Therefore if we continue to practice sin now, we are contradicting the purpose of God in saving us.
2. It overlooks God’s means of saving sinners
To be saved is to be “in Christ” and if we are in Christ, he is in us and his life will inevitably turn us from sin to righteousness. Charles Hodge the Princeton theologian wrote “Union with Christ, being the only source of holiness, cannot be the source of sin.”
3. It reveals a mis-understanding of grace
Martyn Lloyd-Jones asks “What is the business of grace? Is it to allow us to continue in sin? NO! It is to deliver us from the bondage and the reign of sin, and to put us under the reign of grace!” James Boice writes “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? If you understand the nature of grace, you will understand that for grace to increase, sin must decrease, not increase. The goal of grace is to destroy and vanquish sin. Therefore, if a person goes on sinning, as the objection suggests, it shows that he or she actually has no part in grace and is not saved.” Mark what he says, “The goal of grace is to destroy and vanquish sin.” Grace is not granted to allow us to continue in sin, grace is granted to rescue us from sin.
Why can’t you as a believer continue to live in sin? The answer is simple – you have died to sin. What exactly does that mean?
Let’s start by examining when it was that you as a believer died to sin. You died to sin when Jesus Christ was crucified. Look at verse 10 of Romans 6
"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. “(Romans 6:10-11NASB95)
Notice what Paul says, “For the death that He (Jesus) died, He died to sin once for all”. Jesus didn’t die for his own sin, he didn’t have any. Therefore He must have died for the sins of others. And the death that he died took care of the sin once for all; all being a reference to all who will believe in Christ. Remember that in our union with Christ all that “happened to him is valid for us in him.” That means that we share in the accomplishments of Christ. That means that when Christ died to sin, all who come to faith in Christ they have also died to sin.
The tense of the verb died signifies a single action that has taken place in and has been completed in the past. On the cross when Christ died to sin, you believer died to sin, it is an accomplished fact and in light of this fact, Paul says in verse 11 “Even so consider yourselves dead to sin.” Paul says in light of what I’ve just told you, you need to consider you need to account, you need to occupy your mind with the reality that you too are dead to sin.
Remember me saying that you need to preach the gospel to yourself everyday? As you are preaching the gospel to yourself each day, you need to be constantly reminding yourself that you are dead to sin! You need to dwell on the fact that you have died to sin!
What does it mean that you have died to sin? It means that the life that you lived before you were in Christ is dead, and buried and gone. It means that you have no life to go back to. It means that the direction of the life of a Christian is to go forward because there is no life, there is no old way of living to go back too!
What is your relationship to sin? You have died to sin in Christ! It has no hold on you, it’s power and it’s dominion over you has been broken. Your major impediment in becoming like Christ has already been successfully dealt with by Christ on the cross. Now you can begin to live out your identity. Now you can begin to live out who you truly are. You are in Christ and you have died to sin.