...How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
The Christian sacrament of baptism teaches us about our spiritual benefits in the covenant of grace, that are bestowed upon us because of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
These benefits include our being born again, cleansed from sin, and set upon a new walk of life. (Baptism also symbolises our entrance into the visible Church family on earth.)
In the apostle Paul’s explanation of what happens to us—and what we begin to be aware of—at our regeneration, he declares that “so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death”, and that we have been “buried with him by baptism unto death” (Romans 6:3,4).
In another epistle, Paul says that God saved us “by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Titus 3:5b,6). Though a different word (washing) is used here, this same cleansing is what is also known as baptism.
We understand that it is not the physical water ceremony that effects these changes in our lives, but our spiritual baptism by the Holy Spirit that happened when we received our new birth (Mark 1:8; Acts 1:5; 2:38; 10:27; 1 Corinthians 12:13).
The Bible does not teach the error known as baptismal regeneration. There is no causal or effectual mediating link between the physical water ceremony and our spiritual new birth.
But there is a causal link between the historical events of Christ’s death and resurrection and our spiritual new birth.
Notice how Paul speaks of these two events (which are both historical and spiritual) as inseparably linked together. This still holds true when a person is born again today, even though a great span of centuries has passed.
In Christ’s crucifixion—the Christian’s old nature was crucified (see Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20). This happened in two inseperable stages:
Our old nature was reckoned by God, the Righteous Judge, to have been crucified with Christ in his substitutionary atonement for his people.
And then, as an inevitable consequence of this atonement, our old nature was actually slain within us when we were converted.
And not only did God so closely include us in Christ’s crucifixion, but God also so closely included us in Christ’s resurrection that he deposits and sustains new life in our regenerated souls.
Putting Away Sins
The Epistle to the Hebrews teaches this same historical-spiritual link between Christ and true Christians when it contrasts the ineffectual Old Testament sacrifices with Christ’s effectual atoning sacrifice.
It was never possible for the blood of animals to take away sins (Hebrews 10:1-4)—but the real atonement was accomplished by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ (v.5-9).
“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:24-26).
And it was in Christ’s sacrifice that he “hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).
This is what Christ’s crucifixion has actually accomplished for us:
Those that came to the Old Testament sacrifices could never be made perfect by them (v.1), but those that come to Christ by faith are made perfect by his sacrifice (v.14).
The blood of animals could never take away sins (v.4), but the blood of the the New Covenant could and did (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:13-15; 10:8-9,16-17).
In this sacrifice of himself, Christ our High Priest has “offered one sacrifice for sins for ever”—and therefore we, his believing people, have the remission of our sins (Hebrews 9:25,26; 10:12,17-18).
And so through Christ’s offering for sin we are actually sanctified (Hebrews 10:10,14)—we have been made holy (1 Corinthians 1:2).
This salvation accomplished by our Lord Jesus Christ has been applied to us in our baptism by the Holy Spirit, at our conversion. And this is the ground of our great confidence before God in his covenant family:
“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest1 by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (v.19-22).
The Death of Our Old Life
Returning to Paul’s teaching on baptism in Romans chapter 6, let us learn the apostle’s doctrine: we were “buried with”2 Christ “by baptism unto death” (v.4).
Christ actually died on the cross at Calvary. His burial3 put away the unclean corpse (compare Numbers 9:9; 19:11-16). Our baptism by the Holy Spirit likewise accomplished the putting away of our old, sinful, fallen nature.
Yes, memories of past sins and some of our sinful habits (our trained-in sins) are still with us.5 But the Bible’s teaching is that our old nature has indeed been slain—crucified with Christ—and so we are not owned and dominated by our old nature any more.
We now belong to God. And he has graciously provided us with the ability to not continue in sin and to break from our old ways (see 1 Corinthians 6:19,20).
Paul immediately explains the purpose of this union with Christ’s death and burial: “that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4).
Christian conversion is the end of our old life and a beginning of our new life.
“For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him [Christ], that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (v.5,6).
Though many centuries separate us from the death of Christ, it is still true that in our own baptism by the Holy Spirit (not the water ceremony) we are so united to Christ that we were indeed buried together with him and planted together6 in the same likeness.7
And like as Christ was raised again, so were we born again.
Reckon Yourselves Dead to Sin
So, we need to be “knowing this” (v.6): that we no longer have to obey our old sinful inclinations. If we have been born again then we are no longer compelled to sin by our tyrannical, totally depraved nature.
The apostle emphasises, “For he that is dead is freed from sin” (v.7). As he previously challenged us in the second verse, “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (v.2).
We should believe this to be true and therefore to live as though it is true—because it is true!
“Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (v.11,12).
Reckon this to be true of yourself—as Paul did of himself: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Elsewhere Paul describes this reckoning as the renewing of your mind:
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).
“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
And in Col, in the midst of Paul’s teaching the same doctrines to that church, he teaches Christians to:
“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God…Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth…And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Colossians 3:2,5,10).
The apostle Peter taught this same doctrine:
“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries” (1 Peter 4:1-3).
Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind.
To be continued.
- This is the true “most holy place” that is the very presence of God in Heaven, which the earthly Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple were patterned after (see Exodus 26:33,34; 1 Kings 8:6; Hebrews 8:1-5).↩
- The greek word is συνθάπτω, sunthapto, meaning “buried together with”.↩
- Many Christians testify that the Holy Spirit immediately removed some of their old sinful ways at conversion.↩
- The Greek word translated here is σύμφυτος, sumphutos and it means _to grow up together congenially, as from the same parent.↩
- The Greek word is ὁμοίωμα, homoioma, meaning of the same (not merely something analogous, but actually sharing equality or identity).↩