Died to Sin and Alive to God: Their Meaning and Significance: Part I
The Significance and Beauty of Union with Christ
Growth in Christ

Introduction: The four-part series: Died to Sin and Alive to God: Their meaning and Significance is designed to give a correct understanding of these two phrases. Being saved is only the start of the new life in Christ. The Christian grows to become like Christ. A correct understanding of the twin phrases: “died to sin” and “alive to God,” is vital for Christian growth. The purpose of this four-part series is motivate believers to run the race God’s way for His glory and their good.

I am sure you have heard the phrase died to sin. I suspect you, as others, have asked what it means. The question is more pressing when you honestly examine yourself. The Holy Spirit through Paul answers the question posed above in Romans 6:1-7:
v.1: What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?
v.2: By no means! We died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?
v.3: Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
v.4: 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.
v.5: For if we have been united with him in in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
v.6: For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin –
v.7: because anyone who has died to sin is freed from sin.

These verses are much-discussed and various interpretations abound. For Paul, died to sin is a fundamental premise. Therefore all believers must understand its meaning. Paul is answering the suggestion posed in verse 1 that the doctrine of grace he has been developing encourages a life of sin. He wrote in verse 20-21 of chapter 5, that the law was added so that the trespass may increase. If sin increased then grace would also. So believers should go on sinning. He repeats the rationale given in the preceding two verses in verse 1 of chapter 6. He then counters this wrong view of sin and grace in verse 2 by stating OF COURSE NOT! He gives the reason: every believer has died to sin.

This is Paul’s fundamental premise throughout chapter 6. Paul has in view something more than simply committing actual sins. Paul is speaking of sinning as a patterned way of life. He is referring to a life that is based on and characterized by fulfilling I wants and I deserves in lieu of pleasing God. He is referring to what the believer was before he was saved. Paul knew that every person born of ordinary generation was guilty, condemned, and corrupt by virtue of being in Adam. Adam was man’s representative. God counted his action to the account of every person. Such is the bad news – in Adam, people are guilty and condemned.

The question also strikes at the heart of Triune God and the gospel. God is the Giver of grace par excellence. The suggestion that man must sin in order to get God to give grace makes God a Being to be manipulated by sinning no less. It distorts grace and the Giver of grace. Also the suggestion posits the thinking that a little more sinning is not that big a deal because more grace will come.

Every believer had a ledger sheet before the bar of God’s justice. Its weight, height, and length are overwhelming; it is unable to be cleaned by any natural man. The ledger sheet carries with it the title: worthy of hell. The Triune God’s love in Christ by the Holy Spirit is the only means by which to wipe it clean (Ephesians 3:17-19: so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established I live may have the power together with the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that may be filed to the measure of all the fullness of God). Christ intervened such that sinners died to sin. Several questions follow: what does it mean died to sin; how did it occur; and what is its significance?

The phrase, died to sin, is referring to something that was done to and for believers. That is the import of we in verse 2. We represents believers who are in Christ in contrast to others who are not in Christ: unbelievers have not died to sin. The believer has a unique and special position in God’s economy. The believer was the recipient of an action done to and for him.

Paul’s fundamental premise which is the import of the verb died is that there has been a radical, drastic, definite, decisive break with sin and the sin condition for the believer. It will never be done again; it is non-repeatable and can’t be lost. It refers to a single past and completed action. The action was done to the believer and the believer responds to that action which Paul discusses throughout chapter 6.

There is a corporate aspect to the phrase. All believers have died to sin. Also, there is a representative and positional aspect of the phrase. All people were born in Adam. The relationship changed when they became believers. They are now in Christ positionally. Lastly, there is a historical, personal aspect – you, believer, died to sin when you were saved. Again it is not something you did; it was done to you and for you.

There are several misinterpretations of the phrase (as outlined by Dr. James Boice in his commentary on the book of Romans: A Expositional Commentary, volume 2, 1992) and they include:
• The Christian is no longer responsive to sin and sinning. Dead bodies don’t respond. Generally people are speaking of being dead to the appeal and power of sin. But we know Christ was tempted. In verses 11-13 of this chapter Paul tells the Romans to reckon or count yourself died to sin because you are and alive to God. he would tell them that unless sinning was a possibility
• The Christian should die to sin. No, the text says that God has done something that the believer can’t do. It has been done.
• The Christian is dying daily. It is true that the Christian grows in Christlikeness but not by dying to sin. That is God’s responsibility. Because God has done it to us, believers will think, desire, and act as God’s children. They die to self.
• Dying to sin is something we do. We do put off sinning because we died to sin by the act of God putting us in union with Christ. We die to self and deny self and in that way die to sinning. But those are the results of being united with Christ which was done for us and to us. It is not something we can do.
• The Christian has died only to sin’s guilt. Rather dying to sin sets the stage for growth in Christ. Dying to sin involves more than freedom from guilt.

It is quite a blessing to consider the truth that in principle the believer can no longer sin and receive the just deserts that unbelievers deserve and will get. This truth does not mean that the believer does not sin. It does mean that the believer has been loved out of hell, into heaven and into God’s presence. As Paul writes in Romans 6:9-11, resurrection life starts at salvation. God is very good!

1. What does the phrase died to sin mean?
2. What are some misinterpretations of it?
3. How is it refreshing?

Died to Sin and Alive to God: Their Meaning and Significance: Part II
Died to Sin: The Significance and Beauty of Union with Christ

Having addressed the fact that the believer has died to sin, Paul next takes up how we died to sin. There are places in Romans 6 where the phrase died to sin is used: verses 2, 10, and 11. In verses 2 and 11 the reference is to the believer and in verse 10 (For the death he died he died to sin, once-for-all, but the life he lives he lives to God), the reference is to Christ. How Christ died to sin is how believers died to sin. Please notice that the text says Christ died to sin and not for sin. Christ did die for sin and for the sinner through His work as the perfect priest and perfect sacrifice while on earth. But that is not Paul’s point here. Christ had no sin of His own or was he guilty in Adam.

Paul includes the words: once-for-all and he lives for God. Therefore as far as Jesus’ relationship with sin, it is finished. Jesus accomplished work is completed never to be repeated. He will never die to sin again! Please read verse 9: We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. Here is the defining thought: as a result of the believer’s union with Christ in His death and resurrection, the old believer – what he was in Adam – is past and done away! Believers will not and cannot go back to what they were as unbelievers!

Positionally, believers have been united with Christ in both His death and resurrection. Truly the believer is a new creation/creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). Knowing these facts and acting upon them is fundamental for growth in Christ (progressive sanctification). Paul begins to unfold the mystery and truth of union with Christ. A proper understanding is vital for understanding and enjoying died to sin: its meaning and significance.

First, Paul teaches that believers died to sin because we were baptized into Christ (v.3). This statement is fundamental to a proper understanding of what it means died to sin. The phrase baptized into Christ has nothing to do with water baptism. The phrase refers to a new relationship and consequently a new identity that was done for, has been given to, and is experienced by the believer. As a result, the believer has a change in existence, reality, sphere, and allegiance. Moreover, the believer has been rescued from the kingdom of darkness and membership in Satan’s family and kingdom. Every believer at one time was Christ-less, without God, and without hope (Ephesians 2:11-15). At regeneration the believer was translated into God’s family and kingdom (John 3:3-8; Colossians 1:13). These facts occurred because of Christ’s union with believers and the believers’ union with Christ.

Second, you ask amazingly: how can that be? Inherent in the idea of died to sin is the foundational truth that union with Christ is in contrast to membership with Satan and allegiance to self, sin, and Satan. The Old Testament example of the exodus serves to illustrate Paul’s teaching. The Israelites fled Egypt across the Red Sea in the first exodus and were baptized into Moses (1 Corinthians 10: 1-4). A new existence and reality had been established for them and to them and they were not touched by water. They were never to return to their old way of life. In other words, they were de-Egyptian-ized! A new relationship and allegiance to Yahweh had been established for them. They were to live as saved people as are all believers.

Third, the concept of union with Christ is rich. God in Christ accomplished redemption and the Holy Spirit applies the benefits of Christ’s salvation to individual believers but also corporately. Mankind, God’s people, died to sin. Paul expresses those benefits as united with Christ in his baptism, death, burial, and resurrection (v.5: For if we have been united with him in in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his). One notion that comes forth from this union – Christ with the believer and consequently the believer with Christ – is the solidarity between Christ and believers. Positionally, what Christ did is counted by God to the believer. Christ died to sin, so, too, did the believer. Christ was resurrected, so, too, was the believer spiritually and eventually physically.

Fourth, Paul describes one goal of died to sin: believers are to walk in newness of life (verses 4, 6). Christianity is radical and supernatural. God works His plan of redemption from eternity past to a point in time in history. Christ was a real, historical figure Who completed the Triune God’s work of redemption once-for-all. Believers are historical beings, miraculously changed by the Holy Spirit and placed into a new existence and new sphere of reality because they are united by faith to Christ.

1. Think through Paul’s notion of union with Christ. List some implications for you and for God.
2. What do you learn about yourself and about God?
3. What did it cost you and what did it cost Christ to place you in union with Him? What should be your response and why?

Died to Sin and Alive to God: Their Meaning and Significance: Part III
Alive to God: The Significance and Beauty of Union with Christ

Paul continues to address the fundamental premise that the believer died to sin because he is in Christ. He now continues to unpack that truth by focusing on being alive to God.
v.5: For if we have been united with him in in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
v.6: For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin –
v.7: because anyone who has died to sin is freed from sin.
v.8: Now if we died with Christ, we believe we will also live with him.
v.9: For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.
v.10: The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives he lives to God.
v.11: In the same way count yourself dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

The “flip side” of died to sin is alive to God. The death to sin spoken of in Romans 6:2, 11 has taken place in the life history of the individual believer and the church.

Throughout Romans 6:1-10, there is an appeal to Christ’s resurrection – an actual historical event. Paul applies this to the believers’ union with Christ. The believer has died to sin because he and all of God’s people, Jew and Gentile, were baptized into Christ (see also Galatians 3:27). Paul is not speaking of water baptism. Here baptism signifies union with Christ. Believers are joined with Christ by and in His death (Romans 6:3-5) and His burial (Romans 6:4). His death was specifically a death to sin (Romans 6:10: For the death he died he died to sin, once-for-all, but the life he lives he lives to God). Therefore believers died to sin in Christ and can never go back to the old person they were as unbelievers.

However, death to sin is not a complete description of the believer’s existence because it carries a negative force. Rather the believer is alive to God (Romans 6:4, 10). Paul is speaking of resurrection life. Just as the first Adam was a real historical figure who sinned as the representative for all mankind, so Jesus is the second Adam Who lived, died, and rose from the grave for the many – His people (John 6:37-43; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Believers have a resurrected as well as a crucified Savior. The two are inherently linked.

For Paul, salvation and life after salvation is grounded in the resurrection of Christ. A crucified and dead Savior is no Savior. Christ is alive and well. He is active in His session in heaven (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). The life that Christ now lives is to God (6:10). Christ is busy! He lives as One who rose from the dead (Romans 6:9). He has newness of life for Him and the saints as we await His final return (Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 12:1-3). Paul’s emphasis is the believer’s radical change in keeping with Christ’s radical change. Christ’s work and change was redemptive. The believer’s change is a result of Christ’s redemptive work. Died to sin is a stamp of approval on Christ’s work by the Triune God.

Consider the great taught truth in John 3:3-8. Regeneration is a result of the activity of the Holy Spirit within the person. A radical change occurs in the believer. He is born from above. He was dead now he is alive – he is alive in Christ because Christ died to sin! Both Paul and John emphasize the radical metamorphosis and transition effected for (Paul) and in (John) the believer. This change occurred personally (at some point the believer was saved) and historically (in the history of redemption God ordained salvation for His people in eternity past – Ephesians 1:4) to be saved. A proper understanding of died to sin is a vital part of properly understanding Christ’s redemptive work. A proper understanding is vital for the believer to live as a saved child of God. Died to sin and alive to God are linked to each other and to union with Christ. Union with Him is a fact that He and He alone effected.

As a result of died to sin and alive to God, the individual believer and the Church have duty but also privilege and blessing set before them. These facts are so important to Paul that he uses words that convey knowing and knowledge in verses 3, 6, 9. Paul desires and expects believers to know! Believers are called to rely on that knowledge as motivation to live a new life (Romans 6:4, 6, 11).

Died to sin means alive to God. In principle the pattern follows Christ. He died to sin and He is alive to God. His existence is now different. He is the exalted Lord of lords and King of kings that will consummated at His second coming. At some point, at His return, all knees will bow and all believers will acknowledge and experience fully the resurrection life of and in Christ. Sin no longer has power over the believer – he is no longer in bondage to sin. These truths flow from the supernatural and profound fact that the believer has died to sin in Christ and is alive to God in Christ.

1. Read Romans 6:1-10 from the viewpoint of union with Christ – Who Christ is and your relationship to Him. What is the significance of these truths for you now?
2. In what ways are you alive to God? Study Roman 6:4, 10 to help you. How will that look in your daily life? Be specific.
3. In Christ is a key term for Paul. It signifies union with Christ. What does the term mean to you and how have you relied on its truth?

Alive to God: What It Means and Its Significance
The Significance and Beauty of Union with Christ
Growth in Christ: Part IV

True believers are united to Christ. In one sense, the sentence is redundant. There is no salvation apart from Christ and union with Him. Union with Him means being united to him and in right relationship with him. Paul’s way of speaking of union with Christ is to say that believers are in Christ, in Jesus Christ, or in Him. These terms are especially unique to Paul. Paul uses such terms some 165 times in his letters! It is important to remember that every believer was at one time out of Christ, His enemy. He was in Satan, in self, and in sin and most likely he convinced himself that the mode of existence was “just fine.”

Some features of this union include: it is a representative union. The first Adam represented all mankind as covenant head positionally. The second Adam, Christ, stands in the place of His people as their covenant Head. What Adam did was counted to all mankind by God. The results of what Christ accomplished were counted to God’s elect.

Union with Christ is vital for life. Such is the example of the vine with its branches in John 15, the church and the physical body and its various parts in 1 Corinthian 12, and the marriage union in Ephesians 5. Life found in one is experienced and found in the other. In regards to union with Christ, what Christ experienced and gained redemptively is what the believer experienced and gained non-redemptively. Positionally, the believer shares in Christ’s suffering and death and in his victory. Such is one import of Paul’s teaching in Romans 6:1-10.

The union is a spiritual one. It is by and through the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer (Ephesians 3:16-17). The benefits of what Christ accomplished in His life, death, and resurrection are applied by the Holy Spirit to the believer. Lastly, the union is mystical and supernatural. We know of it only because it is revealed by God for His glory and the benefit of His people.

Paul in Romans 6:11 (In the same way count yourself dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus) calls the believer to do something. In the previous five chapters of Romans Paul has not called the people to do anything. Verse 11 is his first exhortation. It is the first time that Paul has called the people to do something. After this a series of exhortation will come forth. Paul wanted his people to thoroughly understand what God had done and the expected results.

He calls the believer to count himself as God has counted him and to think, desire, and act accordingly – think forgiven (or think in Christ) and act forgiven (or act in Christ). The word count is an important word used some 40 times in the New Testament, 34 of those by Paul. It had two main uses: 1. in bookkeeping and accounting: it is used for evaluating an object’s worth or reckoning a project’s gain or loss; 2. in philosophy, it refers to objective or non-emotional reasoning and its logical conclusion. The word focuses on the reality of something – the way things really are. It is a powerful word most appropriately (an understatement!) used by the Holy Spirit at this juncture. It has nothing to do with hoping for it or that the future comes to pass or wishful thinking. Rather, it acknowledges and accepts the reality that something has already happened.

Paul desires and expects the people to hold it as fact and act on that the fact that the believer is died to sin and alive to God – because they are! The reality of God’s supernatural work on the backdrop of sinful people may seem too much. Paul says NO! Therefore, to live to Christ means at least in part for them to think and act as forgiven and justified people. He spells out what this means in the rest of the chapter. But the major thrust is this: you are in Christ. Your thoughts, wants, and actions must fall in line with what it means to be in Christ.

Paul expects believers to soberly think and mediate on and then act on two realities: we are died to sin and alive to God. How do we do that? Verse 11 tells us how to begin the process. Right thinking and wanting about God and self lead to proper action. Actions flow from thoughts and desires. Feelings are byproducts of all three. Too often feelings are moved to the front and guide us. Subjectivity rules rather than objective reality. Paul was a realist. He knew himself before and after salvation and knew God. Paul had to change his thinking about God, himself, and others. As he did, he grew in Christlikeness enjoying the journey as he buffeted his body and experienced many trials and tribulations (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Corinthians 1:8-10; 4:8-10; 6:4-10; 11:23-29) . Such it is for all believers (John 15:18-21; 2 Timothy 3:12).

1. How is it possible for you to think forgiven? What will that look like daily?
2. How is it possible to act forgiven? What will that look like daily?
3. What does union with Christ mean to you? Biblically there are only two unions. What are they?
4. What is your position in Christ as a believer and why?