Many people have heard the gospel message in part but when they hear it fully they seem shocked. This past week I have had the privilege to share the gospel during our weekly Bible study on Wednesday, our monthly visit to prison on Saturday, Sunday School class and in our local jail Sunday night. During each of these opportunities there was at least one person truly enlightened through the sharing of the full gospel message. There is nothing better than getting to be a part of what God is doing in people’s lives and the joy of watching the lights come on in their eyes as they begin to understand God’s love for them on such a deep level.
As I prepared for bed on Sunday night, I found myself reflecting on the past five days and was simply amazed. Since I’ve been teaching the Bible I have had many memorable moments but this week has really been extraordinary. Wednesday night Bible study found us discussing Galatians 2:20 and Romans 6. For those unfamiliar with these verses let me just say I think they are the core of the gospel message. They establish for us that through the cross we, that place our faith in Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, are to consider ourselves as having been joined with Him. In other words, we too have been crucified with Christ! While this is plainly taught over and over throughout the letters of the Apostle Paul, I saw clearly this week many have never really heard this. One lady in our Bible study was so effected by this understanding she chose to stay with us rather than go to a meeting she previously planned to attend. She simply couldn’t tare herself away from the scriptures.
On Saturday night I shared Romans six with the ladies in prison and the response was the same. All but maybe one of them never took their eyes off of me as I talked. I joked with them saying, “Isn’t it amazing how this has been in your Bible the whole time?” You see while many may have read Romans 6 not many really believe what it says. For instance one of the ladies made the comment that “We, meaning Christians, still sin everyday.” While she’s not alone in this view, I simply asked her the same thing the Apostle Paul asked in Romans 6:2-3, “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?” As our time at the prison came to an end, a few of the ladies excitedly said, “I’ve never heard preaching like that before!” While I’m not sure what she specifically meant, I think it’s because we didn’t berate them to do more, and try harder, instead we shared with them that God loves them so much He has done it all through His Son Jesus Christ and by faith we have become one with Him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17). As we left them one lady said, “You need to tell everyone that message, I know that’s what I’m going to do right now!” as she made her way back to her dorm.
For the sake of any who misunderstand, let me just say, no one is advocating that a Christian can’t sin we are simply saying we don’t have to. While the gospel to many means we have come to God in repentance and He has forgiven our sins in order for us to enter Heaven one day, the gospel message is really much more remarkable than that. According to the scriptures, we who have received Christ have been joined to Him in an inseparable, eternal union. God sees us as having died in Him and been raised back as a brand new creature in Christ. This is not just an old sinner who has been washed off, patted on the back side and told to try a bit harder this time. This is a creature in which God’s Spirit is joined to your human spirit in a way that has never existed before.
One reason many have such difficulty with counting themselves as dead to sin is because we far too often live from our natural senses rather than simple faith in the Word of God. What the Bible calls walking in faith or walking in the Spirit is a foreign concept to the natural man. In fact the Bible tells us the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Maybe we’ll discuss that a bit more some other time. For now I pray God will clarify for you what being born-again really means according to the scriptures.
The more I study the Bible the more I think our identity is key. Since the fall of Man, everyone of us have struggled with who we are. Throughout the Apostle Paul’s letters we see a pattern though and he always begins his letters identifying himself, for the sake of the reader, and then he tells them who they are. For instance, he says, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle…” Then he says, “To the saints at Colossae, Philippi, Ephesus, Rome” and so on. So we immediately know who he is and who we are.
While this may seem very basic to some, I think many sort of gloss over it. The reason I know most don’t recognize the importance of this is because the church, made up of born-again people, are quick to identify themselves as “sinners” when the Apostle Paul clearly calls them saints. Some might say, “Okay, Louie so what’s the big deal here? Don’t we all still sin?” Ah! now we’re getting somewhere and this is exactly why how we identify ourselves is so important.
Recently while studying Romans six, and reading how we have died to sin, “for he who has died is freed from sin” (v. 7). I was struck by how most “church folks” claim to believe the Bible, but if you were to ask them if we have been freed from sin, while they might agree because it’s written there in black and white, underneath they would still be thinking “but we still sin everyday.” This brings up another question, “Do we have to?”
Talking about our identity is crucial to how we behave. It occurred to me recently the story of Tarzan is a great illustration for us here. If I remember correctly Tarzan and his parents were shipwrecked, both his parents died, or were killed, so that’s how he ended up being raised by apes. This of course caused him to grow up thinking he was an ape rather than a human being–talk about an identity crisis! Later on he returns to civilization but has to be taught how to be human because his whole life had been spent swinging from tree to tree living as an ape. This is where the illustration fits in for us. The Apostle Paul addresses his readers as “saints” because that’s what they are, but they have spent so much of their lives thinking of themselves as “sinners” it’s difficult for them to see it any other way.
When God’s word tells us we are saints, who have died and been freed from sin, it doesn’t mean it is impossible for us to sin, it simply means we don’t have to. God’s provision for us in His Son Jesus Christ is enough. The more we learn to see ourselves as dead to sin the more we will see it lose its grip on us. Just like Tarzan, we have to see ourselves in a new light.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, not idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). So we don’t deny who we were, but like Tarzan, we have to stop seeing ourselves as “apes/sinners” and begin to identify ourselves as “washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God.”
Romans six teaches us those that have placed their faith in Christ have been crucified with Christ. When Jesus Christ was on the cross we were there too. This is the same principle as in Adam all die, in Christ all are made alive.
What exactly does it mean for us to be dead to sin? We can all probably agree that sin is still a very present possibility so how can the Bible tell us we are dead to it? Let’s start by looking at what the Bible means when it says we are dead.
In the Garden of Eden God told Adam not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil or he would surely die. Of course we know he did in fact eat of it but it doesn’t seem like he died. I mean he and Eve sowed fig leaves together to cover themselves and ran to hide. That doesn’t sound like something a dead person would do does it?
Okay, so what really happened there? Death really means separation. When someone we love dies they don’t stop existing instead it means they are actually separated from this plane of existence. So when Adam sinned, and subsequently died, he didn’t stop existing he simply changed realms of existing. He was connected to God and now he is disconnected to God and connected to another…the Father of lies. He had in fact died to God and became alive to sin.
Ephesians 2 tells us we “were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air (Satan), of the spirit (the spirit of error) that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” Being born of Adam means we are all born “dead, and separated from God” therefore we must be born again. This takes place by way of the cross of Christ.
So, in Romans six we discover the cross is how we are rescued from “the dominion of darkness, and transferred into the kingdom of his beloved Son…” On the cross we were crucified with Christ therefore we that were dead (separated from God) can now consider ourselves dead (separated) to sin (the prince of the power of the air).
Now you may ask what about sin though? Can’t we still sin? If we are dead to sin why do we still sin? I’m glad you asked that let me see if I can help you understand.
When Adam sinned and found himself dead to God he could still hear from God couldn’t he? I mean God immediately came searching and calling for them in order to restore them, so we see although they were separated they were not beyond shouting distance and could still respond. The same principle is at work now. Even though, through the cross, we’ve been separated from sin the enemy still shouts at us. We know we can still commit sins so when the Bible tells us we are dead to sin it doesn’t mean we can’t choose to listen to our old sin master but thank God it does mean we don’t have to obey him.
The truth about being dead to sin is made available just as everything else from God is and that is by faith. We don’t always feel dead to sin, in fact sometimes it seems we are very much alive to it but we learn to walk in the truth of the Word rather than what our thoughts and feelings tell us. When the enemy comes to tempt us in some way the path of deliverance is always through the knowledge of having been crucified, buried and risen with Christ. We must see ourselves as God sees us and that is dead to sin and alive to Christ!
As a believer in Christ I have to know some things. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans five that we were all in Adam when he sinned therefore we all sinned. That’s not such good news but thank God the story doesn’t end there. We also discover that just as sin entered into the world through one man, righteousness also came in through one man. His name is Jesus or the last Adam. “In Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”
The Apostle Paul closes Romans five saying, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…” Obviously he knew how most readers would hear this so he went right ahead in Romans six and asked the question, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” Of course his response to the hypothetical question is “God forbid.” He then tells us we have died to sin so how are we going to still live in it? You see if all that happened was us being washed in an outward manner we probably would want to keep sinning, but the good news is part of the New Covenant was the promise of a new heart. With a new heart that loves God we aren’t going to want to sin and that’s the key. Once our wants get lined up with God’s wants we are well on our way.
Continuing on, there is something else we need to know. First he asks, “Do you not know that we have been baptized into Christ’s death?” In other words we have been crucified with Christ and our old man has died. That’s right that old sinning man we used to be in Adam is gone. We have died to sin and are free; so why would we want to go back into the bondage sin always brings?
Some of the trouble arises with believers, and them knowing they’re dead to sin, because they still feel the pull of sin. Feeling the pull of sin doesn’t indicate we have to obey it. This would be like having one of your old bosses calling you on the phone to tell you to do things for him. Since you used to listen to his demands your first reaction may be to do what he says, but if the truth be told he is no longer your boss. You don’t have to listen to him anymore. You have a new boss now. You are dead to that old boss.
Once we see we are dead to sin we have to count on it. The King James Bible tells us to “reckon.” The word “reckon” is an accounting term. Another word for “balancing” your checkbook is reconciling. For instance if you have $100 you wouldn’t reckon you have $500. In the same way God is telling us we are dead to sin so we are safe to reckon on it. God wouldn’t tell us to reckon on it if it wasn’t true. So we can trust that we are in fact dead to sin and alive to God; we can count on it.
The last thing we read in Romans six is we are to yield ourselves to God. Once we know we have been crucified with Christ and we reckon on being dead to sin, we have to yield ourselves to God for his purposes. Just as we use to give ourselves to our old sin boss; now we are told to give ourselves to our new boss Jesus Christ. Our humanity is seen as the same instrument, or weapon, only now we are being wielded by another. In other words, it was never our humanity that was wrong it was the master that ruled us. Now that we have been crucified and raised with Christ, we walk in newness of life with our humanity back on track to be what God intended which is for Christ to be fully formed in us.
How can so many Christians walk around saying things like “We sin all the time” when the Bible tells us we’re dead to sin? At least ten times in Romans six alone we are told we’re dead to sin therefore sin no longer has dominion over us. I don’t think I could ever improve on the clear words of scripture so here they are straight from the King James version of Romans six.
v.2 “We, that are dead to sin”
v.6 “Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”
v.7 “For he that is dead is freed from sin”
v.11 “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin…”
v.12 “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body…”
v.13 “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin…”
v.14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you…”
v.17 “You WERE servants of sin…”
v.18 “Being then made free from sin…”
v.22 “But now being made free from sin…”
In the last two days I have heard two men on Christian radio talking about Romans 7 and 8. They both talked as though Romans 7 is the destiny of all believers rather than the way one must go in order to get to chapter 8. My question is does Romans 8 apply to us now or is it in some way relegated to another time or dimension?
For those not familiar with this let me see if I can help you. In Romans 7 Paul gives us an illustration about a woman and her husband. First she is depicted as being married to the law (Independent-self). The Law (husband) demands perfection and rightly so. God’s law on marriage is that unless the husband dies the wife cannot marry another man or she commits adultery. The man is so demanding, but the wife cannot live up to his standard. She is now miserable and wants out of the marriage, but her stubborn husband simply will not die. If he won’t die she is trapped unless… she died. This is of course what Paul is getting at all along.
In Romans 6 we read that when Christ was crucified we were crucified too. If we were joined with Christ in his death we were also joined with him in his burial and subsequent resurrection. We have been crucified with Christ therefore we, being the wife, have been freed from the marriage law. We have been severed from our old marriage and are now joined to our new husband which is Christ.
I have said all of this to get to my point. The latter half of Romans 7 is Paul’s way of walking us through what it is like to attempt to live under the law. He has already stated we are no longer under the law and yet he finds himself in the Romans 7 spin. “The thing I don’t want to do I keep doing and the very thing I want to do I don’t do.” This is what life is like when you don’t know, or aren’t living as though, you have died to the law. If we continue to live our lives as though we are under the law, and we are trying to keep all the “should and shouldn’ts,” then we most assuredly will spend the remainder of our days in the Romans 7 spin. On the other hand if we will just truly believe Paul’s conclusion on this we will be set free.
The last two verses of Romans 7 reveal the secret to us. Paul cries out “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” after agonizing over his inability to keep the law. It is just here that things come to a head. Paul finally shouts “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” Here we see that if we continue to live in the “flesh”, (the deceptive idea that we are independent), we will continue to suffer the same fate of frustration, condemnation and failure. On the other hand if we simply live trusting in the Spirit of the living God to carry out his own commands in and through us we will be free.
Immediately after Romans 7 we continue straight into Romans 8. We read, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Here we are introduced to a new law. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” The old man lived under the old law which demanded things of us that we had absolutely no ability to carry out. The old man operated only in the flesh and had nothing in himself to enable him to please God. So, it didn’t matter how well or poorly we did in the flesh it was always going to be displeasing to him. Thank God now we have received his Spirit, and we are able to live in a manner that is pleasing to God.
I’ll end where I began. I for one strongly believe Paul wrote Romans 8 because life in the Spirit is what God had in mind for his family all along. I don’t think he wants us in sin or living under law but instead he wants us to live a life of freedom in the Spirit. Not for one minute do I think Jesus Christ gave his life for me so I could live a life of endless trying, failing and condemnation. I think he paid enough for me to live an enjoyable and productive life. Yes there is a battle raging, but I think God has provided a way for us to live in peace even in the midst of the battle rather than a constant state of “O wretched man that I am.”
Written by Louie