What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. – Romans 6:1-4 ESV
Jesus’ death on the cross was not just substitutionary. It was representative. He died in our place and as our representative. Paul has already said, “Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone” (Romans 5:18 NLT). Although Adam’s one sin caused death to reign over all mankind, “even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17 NLT). All who receive or believe in God’s gift of grace made available through His Son’s death and resurrection have had their relationship with sin radically and permanently changed. While Christ died alone on the cross, He did not die for Himself alone. In fact, it was not for His sins that He died. He died for the sins of mankind. And because He has paid the price in full and propitiated or satisfied God’s righteous judgment against sin, those who believe in Him share in His death and resurrection. It is as if we died with Him. Not only that, we were raised alongside Him, to walk in newness of life, as Paul says.
Paul makes it clear that we have “died to sin.” We have been “baptized into his death” and “we were buried.” And “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Jesus’ death was not caused by the Romans or the Jews. It was the result of God’s judgment and wrath against sin. And Jesus was fully compliant because He was fully committed to the proceedings. Jesus was not murdered, but gave His life willingly. The apostle John quotes Jesus as saying, “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:18 NLT). God had sent Jesus to die for the sins of many and He faithfully fulfilled His Father’s will. Why? So that our bondage to sin and death might be broken. His death was our death. His punishment was our punishment. The prophet, Isaiah, predicted and described the death of the coming Messiah. “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 52:5-6 ESV). Because of what Jesus did for us and in place of us, we now have peace with God. Our wounds, caused by sin, have been healed. Death and sin no longer have a strangle hold on our lives. It is because of what Jesus did on our behalf that we are able to walk in newness of life. The NET Bible translates that phrase as “we too may live a new life.” According to verse 20 of chapter five, the grace of God has super-abounded (hyperperisseuō) in the face of man’s persistent and ever-increasing sinfulness. God’s grace, in the form of Jesus’ substitutionary death, has provided believers with the capacity to live new lives, even in these old sin-soaked bodies. We still battle with our indwelling sin natures, but we are no longer slaves to sin. Paul would have us know and believe “that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT). In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells them to, “Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:24 NLT). The apostle Peter reminds us, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT).
Martin Luther, in his Commentary on Romans, wrote: “But to hate the body of sin and to resist it, is not an easy, but a most difficult task.” We each have an active sin nature resident within us. As Paul told the Galatians, “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other” (Galatians 5:17 NLT). But just as we recognize that Jesus was dead and buried, but then was made alive and walked the earth in “newness of life,” so we too have died to sin. We have been raised to new life with Jesus. We have a new capacity to live holy and righteous lives that we did not have before. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit to instruct and empower us. We have the promise from God that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV).
Because of what Jesus has done for us, we can and should live new lives. We should live distinctively different lives than those we lived prior to our salvation. We are new creations. Our ability to walk in newness of life is proof that we have received new life in Christ. It is grace gift, given to us by God through Christ. So as Paul says, “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT).