By Dan Stone (From Union Life Magazine 1979)
In one of our recent meetings the main sharing centered on the truth of our death with Christ and how this affected our lives. After the close of the meeting I overheard a person inquiring of their minister if she really was dead in Christ as Romans Six taught. He gave a curious reply. It went something like this, “Yes, you are dead, but not quite.” I had to smile. How can you be dead, but not quite?
Paul’s immovable stance is highlighted in Romans 6:7, “For he that is dead is freed from sin.” I think it is consistent to reverse the sentence and say, “For he who is freed from sin must be dead.” You are only free from what you are completely separated. The primary problem people have with Paul’s statement stems from “appearances”.
They do not appear to themselves to be dead. At this point appearances are more real to them than God’s statement concerning them. Most Christians know little about Spirit Reality. By Spirit Reality we simply mean that to them their true position (dead in Christ) is not their true condition. Spirit Reality is not a realized reality in them. If we live by appearances we still accept the devil’s old lie. The lie is that we have an independent, dualistic nature – under the influence of God when we are good and obedient, and under the influence of Satan when we are bad and disobedient. We reason that this is true for we see the appearances of inconsistency in our daily actions. But these appearances are not our position. We never were an independent nature under “influences”. We are vessels who contain a spirit nature. We were born containing the spirit of Sin. We are now containers of Christ, because we are born of the Spirit (John 3).
Our true position, as stated in Romans 6, was not difficult for a Jew like Paul. Jews had no difficulty in calling themselves “sons” of the head of their extended family. There is a good illustration of this in John 8 where the antagonists of Jesus are quick to label Abraham as their father and themselves as his sons. In doing so they jump approximately two thousand years of appearances (history).
Another classic illustration of this is in Hebrews 7:9. This writer says that Levi paid tithes to Melchizidek because he was in the loins of Abraham. Physically Levi was Jacob’s son, not Abraham’s. Abraham was the head of the race, their race, so they saw themselves as Abraham’s sons. Several generations separated Abraham from Levi. Equally relevant is this point: whatever the head did, they did, and whatever happened to the head happened to them, as they were “in his loins”.
It is against this background that we must see Romans 6. Paul, the writer, was a Christian. He would easily see Jesus Christ as the head and himself “in His loins”. In I Corinthians 15 Paul calls Jesus the second Adam, the head of a new race. So, Paul saw himself “in the loins” of Jesus Christ, because he was part of that new race – a Christian. Whatever happened to Jesus happened to Pau I.
What happened to Jesus? Did he really die? Yes. In Matthew 27:63,64 the antagonists of Jesus were satisfied that he was dead. They took special precautions to prevent Jesus’ disciples from stealing his body and thus claiming that he had not died. Our emphasis on the shedding of the blood also underscores the fact that Jesus died.
Since Jesus Christ really died, Paul saw that he too had died. Died how and to what? Paul had died to being a vessel of Sin (Paul’s frequent name for Satan). Romans 6:6 is blunt in its assertion “our old man (Paul joined to Satan) is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”
This approaches the heart of the matter. What does crucified mean? It means “put to death by suspending from a cross.” Paul even claims that he is crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). I agree that in our own case we do not appear dead. We appear very much alive. But remember, we are only alive to what we believe we are alive to. Whatever you may think you are alive to, you are not alive to being a vessel of Sin. We need not be alive to appearances or absolutes.
The same truth is evident in Romans 7:1-4. This illustration centers on a death that separates the wife from her former husband. She can no longer produce seed (offspring) from a husband who no longer exists. In these verses Paul emphatically says that having two husbands is illegal. He calls it an adulterous situation. We would call it bigamy. Either way he sees the having of two husbands at one time as an impossibility.
If you know a widow with children, these children are the seed of her first husband. Should the widow remarry, any offspring will be the seed of the second marriage. There is no way that she is going to have children by the dead husband. You would not call the children of the second marriage the children of the first. You know better. This is precisely what Paul says is our position in the Spirit realm.
Based on appearances, Christians believe they are only divorced from Sin, not dead to him. But this is an error. In believing that they have only divorced the former husband, they conclude he may still enter to control them. They think he can periodically slip in again and occupy the house. But we are not divorced from sin – we are dead to Sin.
There is a second marriage. Paul saw that when Jesus died the Spirit He contained as a representative of Paul left the body. This is a general fact of all deaths. The spirit, or life, leaves the body. He coupled this with the resurrection truth that the Father raised Jesus by placing into His dead body the Spirit of life. Thus Paul can say, “If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” For me the “if” is out. I have been planted together in the likeness of his death. Paul knew it and says so in Galatians 2:20: “Christ lives in me”.
We are not divorced from Sin, we are dead to Sin. Never again can the vessel be a container of Mr. Sin. We have the faith privilege of climbing over appearances, which include the horrendous foolishness of divorce, dualism and an independent nature. We can claim our full salvation. We are not saved from past sins and then sent on our way struggling and striving. He takes us all of the way just as Ephesians 2:6 states: “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
We are “not quite dead”, or divorced. We have died to sin and we are alive to God in Christ Jesus.