August 13, 2023

How Identity In Christ Shapes Activity For Christ (Romans 6:5-7)

How Identity In Christ Shapes Activity For Christ (Romans 6:5-7)


Welcome back to chapter six, which has a theme of being dead to sin and alive to God. If you recall, we are coming off the heels of chapter five, which had a similar theme of being dead in Adam and alive in Christ.

Now, in order to understand the meaning of these two sections, you have to understand the glossary of terms. As we learned in Scripture, death is separation, and life is union.

Physical death is the separation of the body from the soul

  • James 2:26 says, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”
  • Ecclesiastes 12:17 in speaking to death says, “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”

Now, spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God.

  • Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.”

Namely, the cause of our separation from God is our sin. As you know, God is holy and perfect, and He cannot be in union with sinners.

However, there are two states of spiritual death. The first is to be physically alive but spiritually dead. This is the default of humanity; everyone is born spiritually dead and must be spiritually resurrected or “born again” in Christ.

The second state of spiritual death is what Scripture calls the “second death” and refers to the eternal separation of the soul from God.

  • Revelation 20:14-15 “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
  • 2 Thess. 1:9 speaks of eternal spiritual death, saying, “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord…”
  • Matt. 25:41 also says, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

So again, we have physical death, which is a separation of the body from the soul, and two forms of spiritual death, one that can be temporary, if we are spiritually resurrected, and one that is eternal.

Now, I need to make an important and subtle distinction.

When Scripture says you’re dead in something (like sin) it means you are in union with it and under its rule and reign. But when Scripture says you’re dead to something (like sin) it means you are separated from it and free from its rule and reign.

This was the context that started chapter six. Verses 1-2 say, “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?

How should we, who are no longer under the rule and reign of sin, still behave as if we are?

Verse 11 says, “Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

So again, the glossary of terms is very important to understand the meaning of this section of Scripture.

As Christians, we were born again in Christ, being separated from the representation of Adam, making us dead to the ruling power of sin and alive to God.

  • Ephesians 2:12-16 says, “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

In a very real sense, we are seeing that Christians have a new identity in Christ, and in that new identity, you have a new relationship to both sin and to God.

And this is where Paul is focusing his argument here in chapter six.

He’s teaching us how identity should inform activity.

And our identity is in Christ—the one who died to sin (He has been separated from it power through His life, death, and resurrection. Ultimately, our identity is in the One who is not under the rule, reign, and condemning power of sin.

You cannot miss that point. Because in Christ and have died in the flesh and are now alive in the Spirit you are not under the rule, reign, and condemning power of sin. Christ’s identity is your identity. His life is your life.

Colossians 3:3 says, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

This was the point of verses 3-4. To demonstrate that we had died with Christ to sin through the baptism of the Holy Spirit (which is regeneration) as symbolized through being submersed in water baptism. 

Vs. 5: 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, 

  • Paul opens up with two clauses. A causal clause (for) and a contingency clause (if) which demonstrates his forthcoming words, are built upon his previous words. He’s highlighting the “if-this-then-that” nature of our union with Christ.
  • That is, his objective is to demonstrate that if, through our union, Christ’s death to sin procures our death to sin, then Christ’s resurrection to new life must also procure our resurrection to new life.
  • If we are linked to the benefits of his death, then we are certainly linked to the benefits of his life.
  • Now, as I shared last week, Paul used a dual meaning of baptism in verses 3-4. Namely, baptism of the Holy Spirit that is that is physically symbolized in water; here again, Paul is using a dual meaning of resurrection. Namely, the spiritual resurrection to new spiritual life that will be physically realized in our resurrection on the last Day.
  • So, if we receive the likeness of His death to sin through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we shall also receive the likeness of His resurrection to new spiritual life.
  • Paul is showing the two-dimensional reality of salvation. The already, but not fully, nature of regeneration.
    • Namely, in Christ, there is a spiritual dying to sin and a spiritual resurrection to new life and there will be a physical dying of the flesh and a physical resurrection of the flesh to eternal physical life.
  • What I want you to see is that our union with Christ grants us all the standing, benefits, and blessings of Christ.
    • In John 14:19, Jesus says, “Because I live, you also will live.”
    • Romans 8:16-17 says, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
  • Again, the central point that Paul is making is about identity. If you’ve been born again, you have already died to sin in Christ’s death to sin, and you have already received new spiritual life as a promise or deposit of the new eternal life you will one day receive.
  • This is good news, and when you understand your identity, you will change your activity.
    • 1 John 3:2-3 supports this when it says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will have not yet appeared [already, but not fully]; but we know that when he appears, we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is. And [pay attention here] everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.”
    • When you know that your identity as a prince or princess, you will act like royalty.
    • When you hope in the rule and reign of the King, you will purify yourself to appear like the King.
    • And this is the heart of the matter: Paul is attempting to instruct motive, not by command or law or fear, but by identity.
      • Because when your motive for obedience comes from the love of God in Christ extended to you through union, your obedience is viewed as work done joyfully from the heart instead of a burden done from fear.

Vs. 6-7: “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.”

  • In this union with Christ, not only did we die to sin with Him, not only have our souls risen with him, but we also were crucified with Him.
  • Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
  • What Paul is trying to communicate is: If our old nature has been crucified and we have been given a new nature in Christ, it is nonsensical to go back and search for life in that which is dead.
    • Now, I don’t know about you, but this hits close to home. How many times have you run to the graveyard of your sinful past, thinking that it might offer you some sort of life-bolstering experience?
    • What old habits or thoughts or activities have you turned back to in the flesh, expecting them to give you joy as they used to give you joy?
    • Paul is trying to show the absurdity of running back to that which you have been freed.
    • Romans 6:16-18 “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”
    • Identity, identity, identity.
  • Paul closes with a final declaration: for he who has died is freed from sin.”
    • As a Christian, you have been set free from the dominating and ruling influence of sin in your life.
    • Prior to your conversion, you did nothing to the glory of God and obeyed the reign and rule of Satan and the desires of the flesh. You had no regenerate heart, no indwelling of the Holy Spirit, no change of affections for things that are holy and pure.
    • But now you do. And you do because we have been freed, as Colossians 1:3 says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”
    • Therefore, do not turn back. Do not entertain the lusts of the flesh. Do not submit yourselves to sin as if it has any power or influence over you.
    • Instead, submit yourselves to Christ. Be slaves of righteousness and workers of light. Not because you must but because it’s consistent with who you are in Christ.