Dead to Sin
In Romans 6:2, Paul says, "We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?" A person may be living in one sense and dead in another, but he is not living and dead in the same sense at the same time. "Dead to sin" cannot mean that he cannot sin, for anyone familiar with the New Testament knows that all of us sin, and one who says he does not is a liar (1 John 1:8). Before we became Christians, we were living in a life of sin. We were continuing to sin, or persisting in sin. When we repented, we died to the love of sin and the desire to continue the practice of sin. When we were baptized into Christ, we died to the guilt of sin. So a Christian is dead to sin in the sense that he is dead to the love of sin, to the continual practice of sin, to the power of sin, to the guilt of sin and to the punishment for sin.
If you were explaining it to a person who had no idea of sin, you might say, "When you are alive to something, you have a feeling of joy or pleasure in it. When you die to it, you no longer have that feeling or desire for it. Sin is doing something that God does not want you to do. When you continually practice what God does not want, you are living in sin. When you begin to love Christ enough that you are willing to quit doing everything God does not want, you die to the love and practice of sin. Then when you are united with Christ in his death, you die to the guilt of sin, and are forgiven, for Christ's death paid for it."
Someone might not yet understand Paul's statements in Romans 6 that since Christ died for us, we die to sin, since Christ was buried, we are buried with him in baptism, and since Christ was raised, we are raised to walk in newness of life, and that all this is "obeying that form of teaching" which was delivered unto us.
"Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with [him] in the likeness of his death, we shall be also [in the likeness] of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man was crucified with [him], that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin; for he that hath died is justified from sin" (Rom. 6:3-7).
Whether we think that the old man was crucified when we died to the love of sin, and then the old man (dead in that sense) was buried with Christ, or whether we think that the old man was crucified when we died to the guilt of sin by being buried into the death of Christ does not ultimately matter, for until we have finished the total process, we are not promised the remission of sins, nor do we arise to walk in newness of life. Just dying to the love and practice of sin no more cleanses from the guilt of sin than quitting spilling soup on your necktie gets it clean from the spots already on it.
Therefore, one does need to know that he can be dead to sin in some respects, and be alive to sin in others. He can be dead to sin in the sense of being dead to the practice of it, but not dead to the love of it. He may not actually be committing adultery now, but would love to if he got the chance. If he repents, he will be dead to both the love and practice, but will still not be dead to the guilt until he is cleansed by the blood of Christ. This occurs when we are baptized into his death. We then come into contact with his blood in a spiritual sense.
"But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death no more hath dominion over him. For the death that he died, he died unto sin once: but the life that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey the lusts thereof: neither present your members unto sin [as] instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves unto God, as alive from the dead, and your members [as] instruments of righteousness unto God" (Rom. 6:8-13).
T. Pierce Brown
Published in The Old Paths Archive