(Article for publication week of 6-10-2009 AD)
“How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:2).
Our text this week is Paul’s answer to the question, “shall we continue in sin?” His answer is a resounding “NO!” “God forbid!” “Absolutely not!” And the first reason he gives is that Christians are dead to sin. What Paul means by being dead to sin is that Christians are “dead’ judicially, in Christ. Paul is not suggesting that Christians no longer have to fight against sin, resist it and mortify it, but rather that our position in Christ is that we are legally dead to sin. We know this for several reasons. First of all, Paul is basing his argument on everything he said in Romans 3:21-5:21 where he declares that salvation is all of free grace and justification as a forensic act declared by God Himself through His Son. Secondly, in verse 11 of chapter 6, Paul exhorts believers to “reckon” themselves “dead” unto sin. If there were not a sin nature remaining in Christians, this exhortation would be useless. Thirdly, in verse 13, he calls upon us to not “yield “ our members to unrighteousness. If we were actually dead to sin as far as it not bothering us, this would again be unneeded. Fourthly, we know that Christians can and do still sin from other scriptures. (See I John 1:8 for example.)
But Christians are judicially “dead” to sin. This means that when Christ died on the cross, we died with Him, representatively, because God’s elect are in Him by election union from eternity (Ephesians 1:4; Colossians 1:1-4). The sins of all who believe in Christ were laid on Him as our substitute and we were represented in His death. The doctrine of justification by imputation (Romans 4) shows that we are dead to sin judicially. All the sins of all God’s chosen elect were transferred to Christ and that debt is forever cancelled by God.
This is one of the most powerful motives for a holy life. In II Corinthians 5:14, we read, “the love of Christ constraineth us.” Christians are also motivated by the fear of God, but as I say the truth of free grace is one of the most powerful motives not to continue in sin. Believers love Christ so much and are so thankful to Him for salvation that they do not want to do anything that Christ finds offense with. We know that it was our sins that nailed the saviour to the tree, and we do not want anything to do with what caused Him to have to suffer and die for us. The person who continues in sin is showing that He has never really believed in Christ and that he is still in His sin. The person that is not motivated by the love of Christ and judicial death in Him is showing that he has not been saved.
Dead to sin! Oh! What a glorious position! Sin no longer has dominion over us (believers in Christ) because the Lord died and we died with him. He was raised from the dead and we were raised with Him. Divine justice has been satisfied by our Surety and our debt is satisfied. We who are dead judicially to sin cannot continue in sin. Thanks be unto God for our position in Christ.