Edward E. Dudek
The Word of God must be foundational for a Christian, even more so in the view of the writer, when spiritual warfare is involved. The apostle Paul indicates in his Epistle to the Ephesians that the Christian’s struggle and fight is not against any physical enemy or human foe alone, but against the cosmic powers of this dark world and the spiritual agents arrayed against them in heavenly warfare. It is, therefore, important for every believer to not only know his enemy and how to combat him, but also, as Paul contends, to know what God has made available to the Christian in order to have victory, not only against this enemy but also against sin. The purpose of this paper is to deal with these issues.
At same time, it is admitted, that the writer is beginning to have his thinking expanded and changed because of Daren Tay’s class on Breaking Spiritual Bondages. This paper gives the basis or foundation from which deliverance comes and seeks to show what those underpinnings are.
I. The Believer’s Identification with Christ
In the first five chapters of Romans, the apostle Paul laid the groundwork for the remainder of his epistle. He established that every human being has fallen short of God’s righteous standard. As a consequence, all are under the penalty of sin – which is everlasting death apart from God. However, humanity is not without hope. Rather than abandon him, the Lord graciously paved a way for his rescue. When individuals trust in Christ’s death on the Cross as payment for their sins and believe that He rose from the dead to give them life, God will declare them righteous. In so doing, their past sins are forgiven, their guilt is removed, and the Lord saves them from eternal death and gives them everlasting life.
But forgiveness alone doesn’t make provision for the righteousness of character and life that God requires. And for those who have embraced the gospel, a central question arises: Now that salvation from the penalty of sin has been received, how can salvation from the power and enslavement of sin be secured? Being saved by grace is one blessing, but being able to walk by grace is another.
A. The Believer’s Relationship with Sin As Master (Romans 6)
1. The Testimony of Paul
Paul in Galatians gave his testimony: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal.2:20, NASB). In some way Paul had been put to death on the cross with Christ. Yet he was alive; or rather, not him, but it was Christ that lived in him. The mortal life that Paul was now living, he lived by faith in God’s Son.
Saul at one time was a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent aggressor (I Tim.1:13). But all things are possible for God (Mt.19:26). Nothing is too difficult for Him (Jer.32:27). This enslaved, independent Pharisee (Saul, or the “old Paul”) was transformed and became a new person altogether, i.e., the Apostle Paul. His old life had passed away and new life began (cf. II Cor.5:17). Years later he wrote the Book of Romans in which chapter 6 explains the basis for his change and as he emphasizes, the change that anyone can and should experience in Christ.
2. Sin as Master
The apostle dealt with sins in the first four chapters of Romans. In chapters 5-7 and the first few verses of chapter 8 sin is used as if it were a person, a figure of speech called personification. For example, in Rom.6:17,21 Paul speaks of being enslaved to sin; in Rom.7:11 sin takes occasion through the Tenth Commandment and deceives him. God Himself used the personification of sin when He said to Cain: “… if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (Gen.4:7). In the context of Romans 6 & 7, therefore, sin, or literally, “the sin,” is personified as a master, tyrant or king-a dominant and enslaving power over humankind.
3. A Continued Relationship with Sin as Master?
After stating that where sin multiplied, God’s grace immeasurably exceeded it (Rom.5:20), Paul poses the question to his Roman readers: “are we to continue to live in sin so that grace may increase” (6:1)? Is it morally acceptable to continue a relationship with sin as if it were your master? He then answers his own question, “Absolutely not”(6:2a)”!
4. Being Dead to Sin
Paul then raises another question: “How shall we who died to sin still live in it” (v.2b)? Interestingly, he is not asking, “How shall we who are dead because of our sins,” but rather “How shall we who died [with regards] to sin, still live in it?” Death in Scripture refers to separation, whether from God or from the body. How shall we who were separated, therefore, from sin as master, ending our relationship with its enslaving power, continue in a relationship with it? How shall we continue or maintain a relationship with this governing, hostile power that still dominates humankind (Rom.3:9)? If the Roman Christians ended their relationship with this tyrannical master, then how could they continue in a relationship with him?
Since Jesus was tempted here on earth, it follows that being dead to sin cannot mean that a Christian can no longer be tempted. Moreover, it would be an error to suggest that a believer can no longer fall into sin just because he or she has discovered the truth of being separated from sin as an enslaving master. The apostle in Romans 6 is stating a fact of what happened the moment Christ entered the believer’s life, whether or not he or she is aware of it. The teaching of Paul here is that sin is not meant to be master and the Roman church is no longer under its control.
5. Being Co-crucified with Christ
The apostle states in Rom.6:6a that the old self was crucified with Christ. The unregenerate person a believer once was, was nailed to the cross with Him. The depraved person with desires, thoughts, passions and experiences, was crucified with Christ. God has identified believers with Christ’s crucifixion. That is the way He sees it.
Paul then gives two important results of the believer being co-crucified with Christ in the second part of verse 6:
(a) The sinful body is done away with. The physical body, which was the stronghold of sin, was made to cease to be that instrument or stronghold. The Greek word katargeo is translated “destroyed” in the AV, “done away with” (NIV), “neutralized” (Weymouth), “rendered powerless” (TCNT), and “made ineffective and inactive for evil” in the Amplified Version. A simplified root-form of this Greek word is found in Mt.20:3 (“standing idle”) in the parable about the day-laborers. In the story, a person hired unemployed workers at four different times. The noun argous in Mt.20:3 could be rendered “out of a job.” The prefix kat- on the front of the verb in Rom.6:6 simply intensifies the basic verb’s meaning (“completely, thoroughly”). Therefore, a helpful and feasible translation might be “to put completely out of a job.” Transporting this idea over to Rom.6:6 one could say that the purpose of the believer’s death with Christ is that the body as controlled by sin was completely put out of a job. Once and for all the sinful body was put out of action and became unemployed, so as to not function any longer as an instrument of sin as an enslaving master. His body is now the temple of the Holy Spirit and an instrument of righteousness.
(b) The second result of being identified with Christ in His crucifixion is that from now on the readers do not have to be a slave to sin. This result isn’t based upon their determination or self-effort, but rather because they are crucified with Christ. The apostle makes it clear that God does not free one from sin’s dominion by strengthening the person one was before he or she came to Christ, but by crucifying him.
6. Christ’s Relationship with Sin as Master
Paul indicates in Rom.6:9 that death [another personification] no longer has dominion over Christ. When Jesus hung on Calvary’s cross death reigned and had power over Him. When He died and was resurrected, death did not exercise such lordship over Him anymore. Interestingly, the apostle goes on and states in Rom.6:10 that by the death that Jesus died, He died to sin [not for sin], that is, He once-and-for-all ended His relation to sin as master. Jesus never sinned-ever, but He did give Himself up as an offering for humanity’s sins and bore them on the cross (Gal.1:4; II Cor.5:21). He was truly humankind’s Substitute (Heb.10:12) and Representative (Rom.ch.5). Since Jesus died in their place and represented them on Calvary, Paul says that sin had a claim on Him. That is, sin reigned as master over the world’s Substitute and Representative. But whatever the relationship was that existed between Christ on Calvary and sin as an enslaving power, that relation was completely severed and ended once-and-for-all when He died. And now, the life that the Lord lives, He lives in uninterrupted fellowship with His heavenly Father.
7. The Believer’s Response
a. Count on
The apostle’s teaching is now applied to the Christian reader: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom.6:11, NIV). In other words, so let it be with us-regard and look upon ourselves as dead to sin, having ended our relation to it, but living in unbroken relation to God because we are in union with Christ. Paul’s teaching, then is that Christ died to sin once and for all, and now the believer must consider himself or herself as having died to sin as master and as being alive unto God in Him. According to these verses, Christ’s death has really severed the Christian’s relationship to sin as master. And, Paul tells the Romans to continually count on the fact that they are truly and finally separated from sin as an enslaving power and that they are also alive to God through their union with Jesus Christ.
This paper was prepared and presented as part of the course “Breaking Spiritual Bondages” taught by Pastor Daren Tay at Bethany International University. Advisor for this project was Dr. Sudhir Isaiah. I am grateful to Pastor Daren Tay and Dr. Sudhir Isaiah for the discussions I had with them and for the counsel I received from them while writing this paper. Needless to say that I alone am responsible for the thoughts presented here.
Edward E. Dudek
Bethany International University