23 Nov 2003

What does it mean to be Dead to Sin?

Submitted by theshovel
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Romans 6 - Dead to Sin

What does it mean to be “dead to Sin”? anonymous

The reality of what it means to be dead to sin is so potent that most don’t know what to do with it, especially in view of the fact that our religious approaches to truth just can’t seem to get past the technical and/or the ritual. Keep in mind that Paul had first mentioned it in relation to the question as to whether grace provided a reason to continue in sin.

The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! 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? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Romans 5:20-Romans 6:7

How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

This question baffles our doctrinally religious logic. After all, it’s not just a question but also an answer, and one that comes across as flippantly out of touch with reality. I mean, Paul just throws it out there, after a powerful negative, as if it somehow answers the logical objection to a grace that would surely promote sin. The combined effect of Paul’s follow-up portrays the very concept as being the most ridiculous and absurd suggestion ever made. In other words, how COULD one continue on in an existence from which they have been removed by reason of death?

We have been so indoctrinated by the order-on-order, line-on-line approach of an exacting science of God that we have been able to incorporate the idea of being died for because it allows the separation between God and ourselves to remain. It should be no surprise then that in order to even approach the concept of having died we must continue on with that same technically rigid formula. Theology provides such a handle by which we can rationalize and discuss the deep things of God in technically accurate concepts, words and phrases, but as a science teacher theology will insist upon a sterile laboratory in which these truths might be rightly divided – or should I say, Dissected?

So the word of the LORD to them will be, ‘Order on order, order on order, line on line, line on line, a little here, a little there,’ that they may go and stumble backward, be broken, snared and taken captive. Isaiah 28:13

I figure I’d better comment on this verse since I’ve been alluding to and quoting from it. Actually, the more familiarly quoted verse is 28:10, as it comes first and only contains the inner quote and preceded by “For He says”, for it seems to support the idea that God had established a theological approach to those truths … only the ones He revealed in the written record, that is.

In truth, it is a denouncement of such an approach, for the whole section likens their elemental understanding of God to that of children learning to speak. The margin in my NASB version gives the Hebrew: Sav lasav sav lasav, kav lakav kav lakav, ze’er sham ze’er sham, which was imitating the babbling of a child. I imagine it was the equivalent of our “A-B-C”, “1-2-3” or “Do-Re-Me’s” whereby those who repeat them over and over in order to display their vast learning only reveal that they remain in an elemental understanding. The fact is that only those who aren’t able to recite such elemental learnings are the ones who are impressed by their more astute and vastly educated associates.

The pronouncement made by Isaiah provides a totally opposite picture to that by which we have validated the elemental approach to God (known as Theology, especially Systematic Theology, as well as other scientific labels). As a matter of fact, God’s pronouncement through Isaiah makes it clear that those who demand that God is understood through the “elemental things of the world” (Galatians 4:3,9) are enslaved by those very elements…which is none other than law!

So the word of the Lord TO THEM WILL BE…that they may go and stumble backward, be broken, snared and taken captive. Yikes! Sounds like a very fitting description of the entrapment of those who are dependent upon the religious theological institution, does it not? Instead of being intimidated by their stature, if we were to stand firm in the simplicity of Christ when confronted by the bondage of theological giants we might easily recognize them as children making challenges based upon how much higher they can count than the other. What makes one a bully as a child remains no different than what makes one a religious bully when grown up.

How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

I remember back in the later 70’s being cautioned by a concerned pastor-friend not to confuse unbelievers or young believers by not first establishing the doctrinal aspect of the gospel that teaches that Christ died FOR us, especially before ever trying to teach them that we died WITH Christ. He warned me that mixing these two doctrines would have people believing that since we died WITH Christ then we must have also died FOR our own sins! The irony in this is that it is only through the elemental approach to truth that one would conceive of having paid for one’s OWN sins in having died together with Christ. This is merely an effect of bondage, for the one to whom God is understood by the elemental approach is also entrapped by the elemental. In other words, such fears seem valid only because their elemental logic establishes a platform by which they appear real.

How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

Do you notice how Paul asked this question as if it should have been understood? No, this is NOT a separate part of the good news of Christ that must be taught in some kind of Advanced Christianity class. No, it is inherent, built into the very basic reality of Christ and him crucified! Jesus did not hang and die upon that cross because he came to fulfill some kind of protocol or ritualistic demand of death so that God could be placated by the action. Instead, he removed the old creation of man out of the way by having entered human history, being its very source, and took on its form so that he could take it down into his death.

In him, humanity was judged in his death so that it could be delivered (saved), and this salvation is in the LIFE of Christ.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:10

Jesus didn’t try to subdue, modify or reform the irreconcilable differences between God and man, but instead he killed them in his own body as he became the very substance of them for us … while we became the righteousness of God through him.

Ah yes, we have become the RIGHTEOUSNESS of GOD in Christ. Boy, oh boy do our doctrinally fabricated formulas play with this one until it has been bled dry! Mostly, the truth of what happened at the cross and beyond has been presented in such a sterile form that the reality that we’ve been made the righteousness of God is religiously refuted at every turn. A common theologically-based denial comes by making carefully dissected distinctions between imputation (legal declaration) and impartation (a passing on of something) so that it can be demanded in no uncertain terms that this righteousness is ONLY a legal statement, an as-if proposition that opposes the truth of any REAL transmission of something from God to us. Now, while it might seem that those who profess and gather under the premise of receiving the Holy Spirit would stand behind the reality of having been made the righteousness of God in Christ their denial is often just as strong as their religious counterparts. Formulas are formulas no matter their origin, and there seems to be no end of doctrinal approaches.

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?

Of course, there’s no way to discuss this passage without dealing with the confusion surrounding what has come to be called baptism because many are yanked away from the simplicity of Christ by an underlying fear of a suggested requirement. For if everything of Christ hangs upon a ritual of immersion in water then what does that say of the idea of the FREE gift of grace?

More than that, what meaning of dead to sin would be implied by water baptism other than symbolic? Keep in mind, Paul is explaining the absurdity of living the same existence to which one has died. To make his point he used a word that refers to an immersion resulting in a permanent change, and it so accurately describes the miraculous connection we have to Christ: IMMERSED INTO CHRIST.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

No doubt the event of their being immersed in water may have graphically accentuated the spiritual reality of immersion into Christ that Paul referred to here, but if he was speaking of the ritual itself then his whole point degrades into the elemental. Maybe we read the word baptize and automatically think of the ritual known as water baptism, but that’s only because during the course of history men migrated a Greek word (baptizo) directly into English and then used it exclusively in reference to that well-known ritual. If one were to have followed the development of the word baptizo it would have been seen that it came to ALSO be used regarding the ritual of immersing of people into water. Instead, religion got possessive about the word and claimed it for its own exclusive use, to the point that it often seems ridiculous to suggest it could mean anything else.

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?

I think one of the biggest mistakes we make regarding the meaning of the sin to which we have died is to assume that it refers to a collection of individual sins, when in fact it refers to the existence or the realm or the domain from which sins flow. Truth is we learned our definitions of both sin and sins by an institution of religion that thrives upon the elemental things of the world so that we are well-equipped to judge between different varieties of sin, or else come to fear the very word itself. But in Christ we are not under obligation to any such option! :)

What does it mean to be dead to sin? Well, it’s both as simple and as complex as what an accountant would discover should he visit the graveyard to collect on past due bills. Simple, because the death of former debtors speaks for itself; complex, because we still often insist that our life is what appearance says it is.

This is way long right now, so I’m going to send it off and continue it later! :)


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