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 (Romans 6:8-11).
In these verses, we find the spiritual biography of everyone who is born again in Jesus Christ. This section contains our personal spiritual story, written in two volumes. These two volumes could not be any more diametrically different. The contrast between these two editions stand in stark contrast with each other.
Volume one records what your life was before you became a Christian. The opening pages start at the moment of your entrance into this world. It commenced with your conception in your mother’s womb. This initial volume contains your old life in Adam, when you existed under the tyranny and bondage of sin. You lived in sin, because you loved sin. That was true of everyone who has been born into the human race. If you are not in Christ yet, this is true of your life. You are still living in volume one. We could label it your B.C. days, your life before Christ.
Volume two starts when you are born again, when you came to faith in Christ. In this second volume, everything was reversed. In volume one, you were dead to God and alive to sin. In volume two, the total opposite came true. As a new creature in Christ, you now are dead to sin and alive to God. This is the total antithesis of where you once were. If you have been born again, then you are presently living in volume two. You have a new Master, Jesus Christ, and sin is no longer your master. You are no longer bound and obligated to obey your old master. There will be many times when we do sin, but there is no longer the habitual pursuit and ongoing practice of living in sin. Being in volume two brings a new freedom in Christ that we now enjoy that enables us to live as He intended.
As believers in Jesus Christ, volume one is a closed book, never to be reopened. By the grace of God, we find ourselves living in this new volume that will continue for the rest of our lives and throughout eternity. This radical change of life is based upon our union with Christ. When we believe in Christ, God baptizes us into Him, placing us into Christ. Whatever was true of Christ in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension now becomes true of us. Paul describes this change from our former manner of life to the next in these verses in Romans 6:8-11.
I. What We Must Believe (6:8)
Beginning in verse 8, Paul tells us what we immediately experienced when we believed in Jesus Christ. The apostle writes, “Now if we have died with Christ.” This is the start of volume two in our spiritual biography, which could be translated as “since we have died with Christ.” This is a statement of fact. The “we” refers to all believers. If you are a believer of Jesus Christ, this has already transpired in your life and is true of you.
What Kind of Death?
Concerning this death, it is, first, a spiritual death. This does not mean that we died physically when we were converted to Christ. Rather, this means that we died spiritually when we believed in Him. There is a spiritual death that has taken place in our lives. We died with Christ to our old way of life.
Second, the death we died is a past death. The verb tense makes this very clear, that there is nothing you need to do to make this happen. The moment you believed in Christ, you died with Him. In that moment, God took us back two thousand years and placed us in Christ. When He was crucified, we were crucified with Him. As Jesus was dying for our sins, we were dying with Him to sin. We died to the tyranny that sin once had over us.
I remember the story that a very famous preacher of yesteryear, R.G. Lee, once told me. He was the pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, where Adrian Rogers pastored. When I was sensing the call of God into the ministry, an older lady in the church made an appointment for me to meet with Dr. Lee in his home. In that visit, he told me about the first time he traveled to Israel. They went to Calvary, and the tour guide asked, “How many of you have been here before?” Dr. Lee raised his hand, and the tour guide asked him, “How can that be?” He had already shared that he had never been to Israel before. Dr. Lee said, “I was here two thousand years ago. When Jesus died, I was crucified with Him.”
This is true. Every believer was present at Jesus’s death. Whether you have physically been to the Holy Land or not, you were spiritually there. You were hanging on that cross with Christ. You died when He died. You died to your old manner of life. It is in the past, entirely behind you.
Third, this death is a completed death. You were not merely brought close to the point of death, but then were resuscitated. Instead, you completely died.
Fourth, it is a shared death, meaning you were crucified with Christ. You now share in the death of Christ. His death meant your death, because you were made to share in everything that happened to Him.
Fifth, it was a real death. This was not a hypothetical or mythical death. This was not a play-like death. It was a real death. You really died, and it brought about a dramatic change in our life.
Sixth, it was a liberating death. You were previously in bondage to sin and could not break loose from its death grip on you. We had no desire to be freed from its controlling lusts, because we loved the sin to which we were imprisoned. But we have now been set free from our previous bondage to sin. Put another way, we died to the reign of sin in our life.
“We Shall Also Live With Him”
Because we have died to sin, something else is true. Note the second half of verse 8, “we believe that we shall also live with Him.” “We” is again referring to all believers. The word “believe” is true of all of us. If you are a Christian, you believe this. You believe with unwavering convictions “that we shall also live with Him.” This is a firm statement of faith.
Please note the change in the verb tense that Paul uses. We died with Christ, that was stated in the past tense. But “we shall also live with Him” is in a future tense that applies to the present with certainty. We have now been made alive with Christ, because when He was raised from the dead, we were in that tomb with Him. When He was lying in that tomb, it was as if we were lying next to Him. When God resurrected Him, God resurrected us. When He came to life, we came to life with Him. When He came walking out of the tomb, we came walking out with Him.
We are alive to a brand new life. Just as Jesus can never go back into the tomb again, He can never go back to the reign of death, so neither can we. We can never return to our former manner of life. The life that we once lived in sin is over. We are now alive to an entirely new life in Christ. The life that is in us is like nothing we have ever before experienced. Here are some words that help us define this new life that we have in Christ.
New Life in Christ
First, it is divine life. The new life we now possess is the very life of God Himself that is in us. It is not a lower form of life, such as animal or plant life. It is not a mere empty, human existence like we once endured. This life is the life of Jesus Christ that has come to reside within us. Therefore, it is divine life that leads to supernatural living. It is the life of God in the soul of man.
Second, it is new life. That is, it is unlike any life that we have ever previously experienced. It is a life that is like nothing this world can give. It is not even a life that a church can give. It is not a life that a pastor or any elders can give. It is a brand new life that only God Himself can bestow. Previously, we were dead in trespasses and sin. But now, we have this new life within us.
Third, it is abundant life. It is a life in which God’s supply far exceeds whatever needs we have. He gives us abundant power to live the Christian life in the midst of the many demands we face. He gives us overflowing love, surpassing joy, and excess peace in large measure. All the blessings that accompany this new life in Christ that we now possess are given in abundance.
Fourth, it is triumphant life. We now have received a victorious life that overcomes the world. It is a life that overcomes the flesh and the devil. The life we now possess is a dynamic, vibrant, robust life in Christ.
Fifth, it is a permanent life. Once our new life starts in the new birth, there is no end to this life. It is ours to experience and enjoy throughout all our days. We possess this new life, not only through good times, but in our hard times as well. We have this life not only in seasons of prosperity, but in days of difficulty and adversity. It is a life that, even when we die, we will never be more alive. It is a life that goes beyond the grave, a life that will continue to be ours forever. We will possess this life in heaven with God.
This is the most extraordinary life that has been given to us. We should give thanks to God that He has given us far more than just forgiveness of sin. We have more than being declared the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. We have new life in Christ. With this truth, Paul is explaining salvation at an even higher level. Simply put, we have now died to the reign of sin and are alive to God in Jesus Christ.
II. What We Must Know (6:9)
Second, we must know what Christ has done on our behalf. Paul says, “knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him” (verse 9). Because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, He will never go back to the cross or the tomb. He will never go back to bearing our sins and suffering to the point of death under the judgment of God. Death no longer is master over Him. When Christ submitted Himself to the will of the Father, He bore our sins for three hours upon the cross. Sin temporarily held mastery over Him. He became sin for us and suffered the penalty for our sin in His body. He endured the wrath of God in our place. He paid the price for our sins, which is death. Paul is saying that Christ will never go back to that previous state again.
This tells us that we will never go back to our former manner of life, because we are in Christ. We have been baptized into Christ, placed into Christ. In order for us to return to our former manner of life, Christ would have to go back to His state upon the cross. We cannot go back to our days before Christ. Such is impossible. Because we are in Christ, and Christ cannot return to His former state, so, too, we cannot go back to our former life of sin.
The Roman Catholic Church has it wrong. In the Mass, they believe that Jesus goes back to His former state of dying for our sins. As the Mass is being served, Christ’s blood is supposedly being poured out again. His blood is claimed to be flowing from His wounded side. That is an abomination, a heretical statement of highest order, that strikes at the very heart of the gospel. Jesus can never go back to shedding His blood for our sins upon the cross. There was a glorious finality to His vicarious death. Upon the cross, Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). The payment for our sins was made in full. No further sacrifice is needed.
Jesus, by subjecting Himself to death, shattered the power of sin over our lives. Jesus broke the authority that sin once had over our lives. The mastery of sin and death has been ended once and for all. It was a fully accomplished and successful mission upon the cross. The benefits are now given without any cost to us.
III. What We Must Understand (6:10)
Third, we see what we must understand. Paul states, “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God” (Verse 10). This statement begins with “For,” which introduces a further explanation of what Paul said in the previous verse. This gives us the explanation of why the dominion sin and death once held over us has ended. When Paul says, “For the death that He died, He died to sin” (verse 10), he is clearly referring to the death of Christ. Jesus did not die for His own sin, because He was sinless. The whole Bible confirms this clear teaching. Jesus not only died for our sins, He also died to sin. That is, He died not only to pay the penalty for our sins, He also died to break the power of sin in our lives. In Romans 5:21, Paul writes, “sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness.” By this statement, Paul taught that Christ died to break the reign of sin in our lives.
“Once for All”
Paul adds that Jesus died “once for all” (verse 10). This does not mean for all people, but for all time. He died once, never to die again. This is a truth that the author of Hebrews reinforces multiple times. “For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He,” referring to our great High Priest, “did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Hebrews 7:26-27). The high priest represented the people before God, and made sacrifice for sin on their behalf. By the sacrificial system, the one high priest represented the many sinners in making sacrifice for them. These high priests had to make sacrifices day after day, year after year, because they were making inferior sacrifices. Their sacrifices were merely symbolic, possessing no efficacy in themselves to take away sin. The blood of bulls and goats that they offered could not take away sin. The entire Levitical system was like a dress rehearsal for Calvary. But when this One great High Priest, Jesus Christ, went to the cross, He offered one sacrifice that was so perfect that it never has to be repeated again. It was a once-for-all-time sacrifice.
A Satisfactory Sacrifice
The same truth is repeated “not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12). Jesus only had to go before God on our behalf once as He offered up, not the blood of an animal, but His own blood. Again we read, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Hebrews 9:27-28). It is divinely-appointed for all people to die once, and after this, they will face God in the judgment. Even so, it was appointed for Jesus to die once as He suffered in the judgment of God on our behalf.
Referring to the first appearing of Christ, the author of Hebrews continues, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). None of those Old Testament sacrifices could take away even one sin. Such was impossible to purge the guilt of sin that had stained our soul. “Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, ‘Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, but a body You have prepared for Me; in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure…Behold, I have come (in the scroll of the book it is written of Me) to do Your will, O God’” (Hebrews 10:5-7). Jesus came to do the will of God, which required that He go to the cross and offer Himself up as the perfect sacrifice for our sin.
The passage continues, “After saying above, ‘Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired,” meaning all the old sacrifices meant nothing before God to take away our sin, “nor have you taken pleasure in them” (Hebrews 10:8). God took no pleasure in the Old Testament sacrifices to have any efficacy to take away our sins. “Then He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will.’ He takes away the first in order to establish the second” (Hebrews 10:9). This means that Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of all that the Levitical system foreshadowed and pictured. It all pointed ahead to His life and death.
The author of Hebrews continues, “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). That is the significance of the fact that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. He never has to arise from His seat in order to offer another sacrifice for sins. His death is finished. This is precisely the same truth that Paul is underscoring in Romans 6:10. He is stressing the finality and sufficiency of the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Meaning for Us
This death of Jesus Christ has an effect upon us, not just for our justification, but also for our sanctification. We are now in Christ. He will never go back to that former state of subjecting Himself to sin on the cross, and therefore, we will never go back to our former manner of life.
I have heard people say, “I would give my life to Christ, but I do not think I could live like He calls me to live. I might start well, but I would return to how I am now living.” This truth provides us with a glorious opportunity to say to them, “If you give your life to Christ, God promises that you will never go back to your former manner of life.” As a believer, we may be tempted by the same sins. We may periodically fall back into committing the same sin. I am not going to say that we will never commit that sin again. But we will no longer live for it as we once did. We cannot go back to it, anymore than Christ could go back to the cross, because we are now in Christ. God has burned our bridges behind us. There is no going back.
At the end of Romans 6:10, Paul adds, “but the life that He lives, He lives to God.” Once Jesus was raised from the dead, He would forever live for the honor and glory of God the Father. This reality is the same for all believers. Once we have been raised with Christ, we will forever live for God, both now and forever. There is an unbreakable permanency about entering into this state of grace in which we find ourselves. We will always live in this new life direction. As a believer, we never become an unbeliever. We can never go back to a life pursuit of sin, because we are in Christ, and Christ will never go back to the cross for our sins.
IV. What We Must Consider (6:11)
Fourth, we must reckon this truth to be certain and reliable. Paul writes, “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin” (Romans 6:11). This reckoning is important because it is the first time in the book of Romans that Paul has explicitly told us something we must do. Everything he has written to this point has been teaching doctrine. Paul has spent five and a half chapters teaching us who we were before conversion and what God has done to save us. This is the first exhortation in the entire book.
This should tell us how important doctrine is, that he would give this much theological instruction before giving us the first action step. Paul first lays this sturdy foundation before giving us any application. We all want the practical steps to Christian living. But this serves as a reminder of the importance of laying a firm foundation in sound doctrine.
“Consider Yourselves to be Dead to Sin”
As we more carefully look at Paul’s exhortation to “consider yourselves to be dead to sin,” the word “consider” (logizomai) is a Greek word that sounds like the familiar English words logarithm and logistics. The word means ‘to take inventory, to number or count.’ It means ‘to calculate, to make an account of.’ It represents careful, analytical thinking. Paul is saying that we need to carefully, analytically think about this truth in our life.
Specifically, we must consider ourselves to be “dead to sin.” As we stated earlier, this does not mean that as a believer, we cannot sin. Instead, it means that the death grip that sin once held over our life has been broken by the power of the cross. The stranglehold that sin once held over us has been broken, and we were released to live a new life. We were once dead in sin, but now we are dead to sin. Paul is challenging us to think deeply about this truth as we live our Christian life. You can no longer live in a lifestyle of sin.
“But Alive to God”
Here is what Paul says we must consider. As believers, we are “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (verse 11). Previous to our conversion, we were the very opposite. We were spiritually dead to God and alive to sin. That is the state in which we entered the world. But in the new birth, this was totally reversed. We now are dead to sin and alive to God. We are alive to love God and adore Him. We are made to be fully alive to desire to please God. Now we are alive to pursue holiness in a new life of practical righteousness. We are alive to the truth of God and to love others.
“In Christ Jesus”
When Paul adds this prepositional phrase “in Christ Jesus,” it is a very important addendum. Never has so much meaning been bound up in so few words. The life that we live is alive unto God in Christ Jesus. There is absolutely no life for us outside of Him. There is no life for us in church, a Bible study, or any other person. All divine life that we enjoy is in Jesus Christ. Certainly, we need to be in church, but only in one that reinforces what we have in Christ. No church died for our sins. No pastor or was raised from the dead for us. Only Christ has done this. This is why all life is in Him.
In his commentary on Romans, James Montgomery Boice asks, “How many times do you think Paul has told the church in Rome to do something before we get to Romans 6:11? Five times? Ten times? Twenty times? He has not told them to do anything until verse 11. The first thing he tells them to do is to consider themselves dead to sin. Once he gets that rolling, then there is a whole series that comes next.”
Boice points ahead to the next verses, which say, “Do not let sin reign in your body” (verse 12) and “Do not go on presenting the members of your body” (verse 13). Boice gives the example of a bunch of olives in a bottle that you are trying to shake out. But they are jammed in the bottle and cannot pass out. Once you stick your finger into the opening, the first olive comes out. Then all the rest come gushing out immediately. Boice says that is what is happening here with Paul. Once he gets the first exhortation out, there are many others that follow. Everything has been building up to this first application point, that we must consider ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God. After this, many more applications will follow.
So what? What should these truths in this passage mean for our spiritual lives? Howw shall we then live?
Assurance of Salvation
One, this truth should give us an assurance of our salvation. We should be able to have an assurance of our standing in grace as we see the dramatic change that has been brought about in our life. Only God could have wrought this change. We cannot manufacture being dead to sin and alive to God. As we see this life-altering reality in our life, it is a confirmation that we are in Christ. Here is the confidence that God has placed you in Christ on the basis of your faith in Him alone. Here is strong reason to have a true assurance of salvation.
If you have not seen this kind of life-change take place in your life, then there is a serious reason to question whether or not you have been birthed into the kingdom of heaven. The fruit of a changed life becomes the ultimate validation that the root is firmly in Christ. The spiritual change in your life is the confirmation that you are in Christ. Here is proof that your old life of pursuing sin has been crucified with Christ. The old man that you once were has been put to death. The reign of sin has ended, and you have been raised to a new life in Christ.
Has this change taken place in your life? A dramatic alteration of your life direction brings a true assurance of salvation. The Holy Spirit alone can give such assurance. No spiritual leader can give the certainty of your salvation. Neither can your parents or experience. The validity lies with the Spirit of God within you. He alone can give the confirmation of salvation.
Paul later writes, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). In other words, the same Holy Spirit who convicted us of sin, called us to Christ, regenerated us, gave us repentance, and gave us saving faith is the same Holy Spirit who continues to work within us, testifying to our innermost being that we belong to Jesus Christ. Part of the basis by which the Spirit testifies within our hearts is that we see the reality of a change of life that the Spirit has produced in us.
Power Over Sin
Two, as believers who have been crucified and raised with Christ, we now have power over our sinful flesh that once ruled our lives. We have the God-given ability through the Spirit to resist the lusts of the flesh. Previous to the new birth, we did not have this overcoming power. To the contrary, sin had the power over us. But now, we are dead to the dominating power of sin. If we sin, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We cannot pass the buck and blame our environment or circumstances. We cannot excuse ourselves by saying that the devil made us do it. Your old man has been put to death. You cannot fall back on that alibi anymore. You now have been raised from the dead, and there is a supernatural power within you that enables you to resist temptation and the lusts of the flesh.
Confidence in Death
Three, we can face the finality of our physical death with great confidence. Every one of us thinks about our impending death. It is impossible for us not to contemplate death. We wonder how much longer we have to live and what it will be like when we die. We wonder how we will face death in that critical moment. Because of these verses in Romans, we can have confidence that we will live with Christ forever. Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Death for the believer means we will immediately graduate to glory. We go from this world of sorrow and tears into unspeakable joy in His presence. The divine life that we have received will never be extinguished. We will simply change locations from this world to the world to come. We will pass through the eye of the needle into the very presence of Jesus Christ Himself. The eternal life that He has already put within us will continue forever. We can have great confidence as we face our own physical death.
The government has determined one new statistic. One out of every one person will die. When the time comes for us to die, there may be some apprehension. But to be sure, there will be an overriding confidence because Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. Death has absolutely no power over us. He has removed the sting from death and conquered it on our behalf. Christ holds the keys of death, and He alone can open those gates. No one enters the grace and not a person leaves it apart from His sovereign authority. Because we are in Christ and He has ascended to the right hand of the Father, one day we will be at the right hand of God with Christ, in the very presence of God forever.
What comments or questions do you have?
Audience: It is simple. You are either in or you are out. I am so thankful that He chose me.
Dr. Lawson: Yes. And that He placed you in Christ.
Audience: I think there are a lot of people who are misinformed about what true salvation is. They have a lot of head knowledge, but do not understand the gravity of the change. Once you have been converted, you understand that your life is different and you cannot be the same as you used to be. You do not want or desire to be the same as you used to be. Even if I did, I could not go back. It is Pilgrim’s Progress, leaving the City of Destruction with your fingers in your ears. It does not make sense at times, that you became something you never dreamed you would become. I think people see Paul and some of these other characters from the Bible and think they are somehow a biblical anomaly, but really that is the norm. That is the biblical conversion. If you cannot see a change in your life from where you were to where you are now, you are not converted. That is a huge misunderstanding in the church today, sadly, because of a lot of watered down topical preaching.
Dr. Lawson: I think a lot of pastors want to teach and people want to believe that this mastery of sin somehow did not happen. That it is somehow a level two experience. But it is as clear as night and day in these verses that when you were placed into Christ, the reality of this immediately began. If sin is no longer master over you, then that means Jesus is now Master over you. It is either/or. No one is in no man’s land without a master over them. To think that sin is no longer the master over you, but you have not yet gotten to the point of Jesus being master over you, and you will just have the joy of doing your own thing without a master is impossible. It is crazy talk. Either sin is your master, or Christ is your Master. You are either lost, or you are saved. You are either in Adam, or you are in Christ. You are either under the reign of sin, or under the reign of grace.
Let us close in prayer.
Father, thank You for this study. Help us to remember who we are and to know these things and live as though we truly belong to You, which we do. I pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.
© 2019 Steven J. Lawson