For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.. – Romans 6:5-11 ESV
For Paul, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus were more than mere events that took place. They were the key to his salvation, sanctification and ultimate glorification. As he stated in chapter one, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16 ESV). The gospel, God’s abounding grace as revealed through the sacrificial death of His own Son, had not only justified Paul in God’s eyes, it had provided him with the power needed to say no to his old sin nature that waged war against the Spirit of God within him. But Paul knew that, for believers, “our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its lower in our lives” (Romans 6:6 NLT). Paul stresses that, in placing our faith in Christ’s substitutionary death on our behalf, we are united with Him “in a death like his.” And if that is true, then we are also “united with Him in a resurrection like his.” From God’s perspective, we died alongside Christ. Not only that, we were raised with Christ, to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:5 ESV). His death put an end to sin’s control over mankind. No longer do we live as slaves to sin, unable to resist its influence in our lives. Because we died with Christ, sin’s claim on our lives has been broken. We have been ransomed out of slavery and have been freed to live in the newness of who we are: children of God.
Paul brings up the logical conclusion that anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Dead people don’t sin. This is why he states, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing” (Romans 6:6 ESV). When Christ hung on the cross, He took on our sins. And He died a gruesome, painful death. When He was placed in the borrowed tomb, He was lifeless, limp and powerless. Death had been victorious over Him. But then, three days later, something remarkable happened. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was brought back to life. But He was not just resuscitated. He was resurrected to new life with a new body. Yes, it had the nail prints in His hands and the wound in His side. He was still recognizable to the disciples, but He was also different. He was no longer susceptible to pain and death anymore. He had the capacity to move about freely, unencumbered by the physical constraints of the normal human body. He had conquered death and, in doing so, He had made it possible for those who believe in Him to undergo a spiritual resurrection to new life. And, as Paul puts it, “so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:6-7 ESV).
In his letter to the church in Colossae, Paul encouraged them, “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3 NLT). He went on to tell them, “put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you” (Colossians 3:5 NLT). This new life in Christ is not without its struggles. We still have our old natures living within us. We still have the capacity to sin. But Paul’s point is that we are no longer slaves to sin. We have a choice. The key is that we must remember our new life in Christ. Paul put it this way to the church in Galatia: “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NLT). It is a matter of faith. I can no more conquer my old sin nature on my own than I could have saved myself on my own. Martin Luther described it this way: “Our spiritual life is a matter not of experience, but of faith. No one knows or experiences the fact that he lives spiritually or is justified, but he believes and hopes in this. We live unto God, that is, in our spiritual and new life to eternity” (Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans).
Paul’s main point in this section seems to be that we must recognize that our new life, made possible by Christ’s resurrection, is to be lived to God. We are to “think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” As Paul stated, each believer is to “put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you.” He tells us to “put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him” (Galatians 3:10 NLT). Our new life in Christ requires a constant vigilance that includes putting off the old and putting on the new. We are to pursue righteousness and flee from sin. We are to constantly consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. We belong to Him. We exist for His glory. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).