Spend some time listening to Christian leaders and you will probably hear them say that we must continually “die to sin” and “die to self”. They will typically say that this dying is a process that we must continually strive towards, focus on and work hard to achieve.
This leaves many people stuck in the spiritual mud of legalism – spinning their wheels furiously to get ahead, but never actually making progress – because progress can not actually be made in this fashion.
So today in this study, we will be taking a look at the idea of dying to sin, and dying to self, as well as what it actually means to have new life in Christ, because all of these ideas and terms are actually related… and sadly through generations of religious indoctrination, we have forgotten the foundation of the finished work of Christ, and begun to construct a faulty foundation of works and self-effort in-place of the cross, and that is not only foolish, but it is flat-out deadly.
As we begin today we are going to take a look at a couple of verses that typically get ripped-out of their proper context, and used in a manner completely outside of how they were intended; and that is not an over-statement or exaggeration. The verses that I am referring to are 12 and 13 of Romans chapter 6. However we are going to read them within context in order to see clearly, and as they were in-fact intended.
So let’s go ahead and read Romans 6:6-14:
“Knowing this, that our old self is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that from now on we should not serve sin.
For he that is dead is freed from sin.
Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death has no more dominion over him.
For in that he died, he died to sin once: but in that he lives, he lives to God.
Likewise reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof.
Neither yield you your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin: but yield yourselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.”
Now the typical application of these verses is that most people jump right to 12 and 13, and interpret them as saying that we must stop our sinful behaviors in order to please God. And when you do that, you end-up missing the entire point of what these verses are saying because you take it out of context.
Looking at verse 6 we can see, that it starts by saying Knowing this, that our old self is crucified with Christ. There are many people who have yet to actually know this truth. They don’t recognize that their old identity is dead – and so they continually try to kill it. They are trying to fight a corpse! They are trying to win a battle that Jesus already won on the cross!
The reason why so many people are struggling today is that they are failing to recognize this fundamental truth; they are trying to build their house on a faulty foundation. It is absolutely essential that we begin with the truth of the finished work of Christ, and our new identity in Him (1st Corinthians 3:11). And sadly this is the truth that is hardly ever mentioned today. Do you ever wonder why that is? Because we have an enemy, whose only weapon is lies and deceit, and so he tries to blind people from the truth – and there are a lot of false leaders who are keeping their followers in spiritual and mental bondage by keeping this truth hidden, and all the while preaching the ministry of death.
But look here:
We can see in verse 7 that he that is dead is freed from sin. The word “sin” here is the noun form of the word. That is your old identity and the place of sin that you were in. Whoever is dead, is dead to that old identity – and we were just told in the previous verse 6, that our old self died on the cross with Christ… do you see?
Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more. Jesus does not continually die again and again. Nor is He in some kind of perpetual dying state. He died once, and that death was enough; it was more than sufficient. Now look at verse 11:
Likewise you also reckon [account] yourself dead indeed to sin [noun].
That’s a fairly straightforward and clear instruction. You are to reckon (or account) yourself to be completely dead to that old identity. You are not that old person. You are not still a sinner. That old person is dead and gone! This is the context leading up to to the famous verses of 12 and 13 that so many religious leaders try to hammer into their congregations. And your probably already beginning to see how those verses are taking on a different light when read within the proper context.
You see many Christians claim that they are forgiven, but they do not truly account themselves to actually be dead to the old identity of sin. In-fact most of them still think of themselves as sinners still. But you are not some kind of spiritual split-personality – no. You are a completely new creation, with a completely new identity as we have studied many times before; and in the verse here, we are being directed to fully embrace and live in this new identity – for all that it is worth and with no waffling back-and-forth. It is not based on your performance of the day, but on Jesus’ perfect performance, and His divine sacrifice for you, as the verses here in Romans chapter 6 makes clear. And this is the proper foundation upon which the rest of the verses sit… your new identity in Christ.
It is this context which gives us the information that we need to properly interpret verses 12 and 13. So let’s revisit them now:
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof.
Neither yield you your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin: but yield yourselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”
And a clue here that these verses are indeed connected with the previous verses is that one word “therefore”.
You see, most people misread the first half of verse 12 as: Let not sin reign in your mortal body. However as we can see here, it actually says: Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body; and that “therefore” is huge! Because the entire core of this verse is centered on what has come before – all that previous information about your new identity in Christ, and what He has accomplished.
Additionally, the “sin” being spoken of here, is once-again the noun form of the word, and not the verb. And this is yet another clue as to the true meaning of what these verses are saying.
They aren’t telling you something that you need to work and strive for, but rather what has been accomplishedin you, by Jesus Christ and His sacrifice.
It is the finished work of Christ, and who He has made you to be (righteous, holy, unblemished, a completely new creature) that causes sin (the noun, your old identity) to no longer reign in your mortal body. You are no longer subject to that old identity and nature, because through the sacrifice of Christ, that old nature is dead and gone! That old nature is not even who you are anymore!
In verse 13, we can see that it tells us to not yield our members as instruments of unrighteousness. And again, without the context of the previous verses, this sounds very works-oriented and all about performance. And the second-half of the verse also makes it sound like our good performance is what pleases God! So what’s going on here?
Well, as I mentioned, this is not placing you back on the scales of performance and earned merit… but it is actually focusing in on your spiritual identity.
The word “yield” used in these verses, means to present.
So let’s again take an honest look at what these verses are saying, in the light of Christ apart from man-made theology.
Do not present the members (or parts) of your body as instruments of unrighteousness. Again remembering that this is talking about the noun of sin – the place, position and identity of sin – it is saying stop seeing yourself, stop reckoning yourself, stop accounting yourself as a sinful, unrighteous person!
I can’t even begin to tell you how many “believers” that I talk to who still consider themselves as unrighteous, dirty, rotten no-good sinners; who still think God is displeased and unhappy with them. I just flat-out tell them now that perhaps they should receive Jesus!
Well then, how should we see ourselves? Look at the rest of verse 13: but yield (or present) yourself to God, in what way? As those who are alive from the dead, and the parts of your body as instruments of righteousness to God.
That is how you should see yourself. Not as dirty, but as clean. Not as unrighteous, but as righteous. You see, you are on the other-side of the cross now. Jesus finished His sacrifice, He did the work, and He gave you His righteousness. For you to still see yourself as unrighteous, you would need to deny the reality of His finished work. I would highly recommend that you simply graciously receive what He graciously gave. And instead of using human reasoning to try and talk yourself out of His free gift for you, simply say “Thank you.”
And our final verse of today’s study, verse 14 drives this point completely home by saying: For (or because) – the reason why this is all true – is because sin shall not have dominion over you, because you are not under the Law, but under Grace.
The old sinful identity will not rule you, or have any dominion over you, not because you have worked so hard to break free by your strength and effort, but because Jesus gave you a new identity, through His sacrifice and atonement in your place, and you are now not under the Old Covenant Law anymore, but under the New Covenant of Grace in Christ Jesus!
I encourage you today my friend, to receive this truth… let go of the religious treadmill of trying to kill a corpse, and simply receive the finished work of Jesus Christ for you.